Apple vs FBI
The FBI taking on Apple and its iPhone has been at the centre of controversies this year Getty Images

Three leading publishing entities in the US, The Associated Press, USA Today, and Vice Media have sued the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to learn who they paid and how much was spent to hack into the iPhone 5C belonging to San Bernardino terrorist Syed Farook. The FBI had earlier refused to provide that information to the organisations that sought it under the Freedom of Information Act.

Now the trio that filed the lawsuit say there is no lawful basis for the FBI to keep such records a secret. They say the public has a right to know whether the vendor that helped crack the iPhone in question has adequate security measures in place and will act only in the public interest.

"Understanding the amount that the FBI deemed appropriate to spend on the tool, as well as the identity and reputation of the vendor it did business with, is essential for the public to provide effective oversight of government functions and help guard against potential improprieties," says the suit, filed in the US District Court of Columbia under the Freedom of Information Act.

The news of the lawsuit comes months after the FBI lost a court battle with tech giant Apple, who it had asked to break open the iPhone by bypassing security measures. The company not only refused to do so but also criticised the agency for wanting to put the privacy of millions of users at risk. A few weeks later the FBI claimed it got access to the phone with the help of a vendor, the identity of whom it never revealed.