San Bernardino last December was the target of a cold blooded terrorist attack. Many people lost their lives and others, their loved ones. The US government, post this event, found an iPhone 5C belonging to Syed Rizwan Farooq, one of the attackers and asked Apple for its help in cracking the passcode encrypted smartphone.
Just yesterday, the US District Court in Los Angeles, headed at the time by US Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym, passed a ruling that Apple must provide “reasonable technical assistance” to the FBI in its efforts to unlock data on Farook’s phone. Apple was very quick in its response, too. Though that was in the dismissive.
The company’s CEO Tim Cook wrote an elaborate retort just a few hours ago in the form of ‘A Message to Our Customers‘ in which he says, quite clearly, that the Cupertino company will not be assisting the FBI in breaking into one of its smartphones as it would set a “dangerous precedent.”
The US government wanted the tech giant to assist investigators in gaining access to the smartphone data by bypassing an auto-erase feature and passcode protection. This would allow the officials to run an infinite number of strings in order to break the code.
The company said that it has assisted the legals in every area they could. They provided data to the investigators that they had in their possession, they made Apple engineers available to advise the FBI, and even offered their best ideas on a number of investigative options at their disposal. The one thing the company doesn’t want to do is create a back door to its smartphone which the FBI wants.
We have great respect for the professionals at the FBI, and we believe their intentions are good. Up to this point, we have done everything that is both within our power and within the law to help them. But now the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone.
Tim Cook wrote in a letter to us customers,
Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.
The company believes that this new OS, the FBI wants programmed, could be very dangerous if it gets into the wrong hands. The government, Cook says, believes that this key/backdoor can only be used once and then left in the shadows, but the reality is that once created, this could be like a master key which could open anything. Apple apparently doesn’t want to put its customers privacy at risk.
This move by the tech behemoth could surely lead to a lot of controversy. It could even kick up mud about Apple choosing terrorists over the government, but as we see it and so does the company, the firm is in fact siding with the consumers.
We are challenging the FBI’s demands with the deepest respect for American democracy and a love of our country. We believe it would be in the best interest of everyone to step back and consider the implications.
Cook writes in the post,
While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products. And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.