Apple has made clear its stance on customer security.
The tech company says it will not comply with a federal court order to assist the FBI in unlocking data from an iPhone used by one of the attackers who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California, last December.
In a letter called, “A Message to Our Customers,” Apple CEO Tim Cook says obeying the mandate would cause a threat to customers’ data security and “undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.”
On Tuesday, Apple’s crisis and PR teams made quick work of announcing the brand’s refusal. The statement was issued only hours after Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym ordered the company to build special software that would act as a passkey capable of unlocking the iPhone.
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The New York Times reports that Apple is ready to face off against government authorities:
The move sets up a legal showdown between the company, which says it is eager to protect the privacy of its customers, and the law enforcement authorities, who say that new encryption technologies hamper their ability to prevent and solve crime.
Digital security and data breaches have become major concerns for Apple’s customer base. In his letter, Cook broke down how complying with the summons would lessen a customer’s sense of security:
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 FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.
Marketwatch reported that FBI Director James Comey has been a vocal advocate for backdoors on encryption technology to assist law enforcement personnel.
Although Apple complied with previous FBI requests in the San Bernardino case—providing data and deploying engineers to advise investigators on how to crack phones—the company calls the bureau’s most recent demand “chilling.”
Here’s more from Cook:
If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone’s device to capture their data. The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.
Opposing this order is not something we take lightly. We feel we must speak up in the face of what we see as an overreach by the U.S. government.
The organization’s stance on protecting customers’ data has prompted a heated political debate on social media:
What do you think of Apple’s public letter opposing the FBI’s request?