Tim Cook: Apple Won't Create 'Backdoor' to Help FBI Access San Bernardino Shooter's iPhone

Apple CEO Tim Cook has posted an open letter to Apple customers announcing that the company would oppose an order from a U.S. Federal judge to help the FBI access data on an iPhone 5c used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook. Cook says that this moment is one for public discussion, and that the company wants its customers to understand what's at stake.

appleresponse
Cook starts the letter noting that smartphones have become an essential part of people's lives and that many people store private conversations, photos, music, notes, calendars and both financial and health information on their devices. Ultimately, Cook says, encryption helps keep people's data safe, which in turn keeps people's personal safety from being at risk.

He then goes on to say that Apple and its employees were "shocked and outraged" by the San Bernardino attack and that Apple has complied with valid subpoenas and search warrants from federal investigators. Apple has also made engineers available to advise the FBI in addition to providing general advice on how they could go about investigating the case. However, Cook says that's where Apple will draw the line.

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.

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.

Cook says that while the government is suggesting that bypassing a feature that disables an iPhone after a certain number of failed password attempts could only be used once and on one device, that suggestion is "simply not true." He says that once created, such a key could be used over and over again. "In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks -- from restaurants and banks to stores and homes," Cook says.

The move, Cook says, would undermine Apple's decades of work on security advancements that keep its customers safe. He notes the irony in asking Apple's security engineers to purposefully weaken the protections they created. Apple says they found no precedent of an American company being forced to expose its customers, therefore putting them at a greater risk of attack. He notes that security experts have warned against weakening encryption as both bad guys and good guys would be able to take advantage of any potential weaknesses.

Finally, Cook says that the FBI is proposing what Apple calls an "unprecedented use" of the All Writs Act of 1789, which authorizes federal courts to issue all orders necessary or appropriate "in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law." The chilling effect of this use, Cook argues, would allow the government power to capture data from any device or to require Apple to create a data collection program to intercept a customer's data, potentially including infringements like using a phone's camera or microphone without user knowledge.

Cook concludes Apple's open letter by saying the company's opposition to the order is not an action they took lightly and that they challenge the request "with the deepest respect for democracy and a love for our country." Ultimately, Apple fears these demands would "undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect."

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Top Rated Comments

AliMacs Avatar
66 months ago
If Apple stands by this and defies the US govt enforcing some old ******** law on apple forcing a backdoor to be made, I'll be one of the many who will LINE UP for an iPhone 7.

It is the principals behind this defiance that has me sold. A company that will fight for my right to privacy is a company I am happy to support. I will rid my android device and buy an iPhone 7 just because I know my data is secured even the almighty US government cannot access.

Tim Cook has my vote for man of the year 2016.
Score: 139 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Redneck1089 Avatar
66 months ago
Fantastic Apple..now you become the preferred supplier for terrorists
You keep making ridiculous comments.

So you would have Apple sacrifice everyone's freedom of privacy because you're scared of terrorists? Your fear is the desired response of terrorism.

Just because there are some bad people out there in the world doesn't mean that we should all stop having our privacy.
Score: 77 Votes (Like | Disagree)
keysofanxiety Avatar
66 months ago
Where is the limit?
If creating a backdoor meant avoiding another 9/11, what would be the right thing to do?
Hypothetical reasoning doesn't do anybody any good and is not only counterproductive, but completely misses the point. There are thousands of these scenarios posed all the time, such as the ethics of human experiments if it meant that medicine created as a result of these experiments could assist the greater good.

Often what these sort of circular arguments miss is that you begin with a hypothetical to justify the end reasoning. What if, hypothetically, this backdoor exploit meant that terrorists would be able to get information from officials and politicians' phones, which in itself enables another 9/11 -- when ironically that's what the backdoor was meant to prevent?

It's exactly the same hypothesis that doesn't really have an answer, and frankly doesn't matter.

If this sort of thing is pushed through, it would be at the expense of privacy and freedom. That much is a fact. So it's best to ignore what could happen, and instead look at what would happen, then make a reasoned decision from there. Manipulating people's emotions, fears and uncertainty to justify unprecedented acts has historically never, ever ended well.
Score: 64 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Skika Avatar
66 months ago
Sorry Tim , I think you draw the wrong line. Supporting terrorism is just plain wrong. Any righteous person has nothing to hide from the government.
Apple, champions of terrorists everywhere.

Stay strong Tim!
Fantastic Apple..now you become the preferred supplier for terrorists
So the terrorists win
“Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”
Score: 63 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ToroidalZeus Avatar
66 months ago
I have a feeling the FBI has been waiting for something like the San Bernardino situation to bring up a lawsuit against Apple. We have known for years (thanks Snowden) that that FBI has been frustrated with the security on the iPhone. Now they finally got their chance to force Apple to create a backdoor.

This will most likely end up being a Supreme Court court. From a business POV, I don't think Apple could ever comply with this demand. The bad publicity around "Apple creates backdoor for the FBI" could easily destroy their sales. I don't know if the FBI is going to fine Tim Cook or sentence him to prison, idk, but he really really cannot comply with this demand. It's just too damaging to Apple.
Score: 60 Votes (Like | Disagree)
darkknight14 Avatar
66 months ago
Tim Cook is 100% right, and even more right when he says the FBI/Government will 'word this differently'.

Privacy will always be one way!
Score: 58 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

jon prosser imac 2021colors

Prosser: 2021 iMac to Come in Five Colors, Apple Silicon Mac Pro to Resemble 'Stacked' Mac Minis

Wednesday February 24, 2021 7:26 am PST by
Hit-and-miss leaker Jon Prosser has today alleged that the upcoming 2021 iMac models will offer five color options, mirroring the colors of the fourth-generation iPad Air, and revealed a number of additional details about the Mac Pro with Apple Silicon. In a new video on YouTube channel FrontPageTech, Prosser explained that the redesigned iMacs will come featuring options for Silver, Space ...
2021 mbp sd slot feature2

Kuo: New MacBook Pro Models With HDMI Port and SD Card Reader to Launch Later This Year

Monday February 22, 2021 8:52 pm PST by
Apple plans to release two new MacBook Pro models equipped with an HDMI port and SD card reader in the second half of 2021, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who outlined his expectations in a research note obtained by MacRumors. The return of an SD card reader was first reported by Bloomberg's Mark Gurman last month. "We predict that Apple's two new MacBook Pro models in 2H21 will have...
m1 mac mini

M1 Mac Users Report Excessive SSD Wear

Tuesday February 23, 2021 7:07 am PST by
Over the past week, some M1 Mac users have been reporting alarming SSD health readings, suggesting that these devices are writing extraordinary amounts of data to their drives (via iMore). Across Twitter and the MacRumors forums, users are reporting that M1 Macs are experiencing extremely high drive writes over a short space of time. In what appear to be the most severe cases, M1 Macs are sai...
iphone 12 pro display video

BOE Rumored to Supply iPhone 13 Display Panels After iPhone 12 Failures

Monday February 22, 2021 9:54 am PST by
Display manufacturer BOE will be one of the main suppliers of OLED panels for iPhone 13 models, according to a new report today from Taiwan's Economic Daily News. BOE is said to be working with touch panel manufacturer General Interface Solution (GIS), part of the Hon Hai Group to develop OLED panels. Multiple iPhone 12 rumors suggested that BOE would supply some panels for the devices,...
flat mbp 14 inch feature yellow

Redesigned 14-Inch MacBook Pro Expected to Feature Brighter Mini-LED Display With Slimmer Bezels and More

Thursday February 25, 2021 7:48 am PST by
Apple plans to unveil new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with Mini-LED-backlit displays in the second half of this year, according to industry sources cited by Taiwanese supply chain publication DigiTimes. The report claims that Radiant Opto-Electronics will be the exclusive supplier of the Mini-LED backlight units, while Quanta Computer is said to be tasked with final assembly of the...
anker magsafe powercore battery pack

Anker Releases MagSafe-Compatible Battery Pack for iPhone 12 Lineup

Tuesday February 23, 2021 7:49 am PST by
Following rumors that Apple is working on a MagSafe battery pack for iPhone 12 models, popular accessory maker Anker has beaten Apple to the punch with the release of its PowerCore Magnetic 5K Wireless Power Bank. First previewed at CES 2021, the PowerCore battery pack magnetically attaches to the back of any iPhone 12 model and provides 5W of wireless charging. With a 5,000 mAh capacity,...
iPad Pro Mini LED

New iPad Pro and MacBook Models With Mini-LED Displays Again Rumored to Launch This Year

Monday February 22, 2021 9:32 pm PST by
Taiwanese company Ennostar will begin production of Mini-LED backlight units for an upcoming 12.9-inch iPad Pro in the late first quarter or second quarter of this year, according to industry sources cited by DigiTimes. Ennostar is a holding company that was jointly established in January 2021 by LED-related manufacturers Epistar and Lextar Electronics. Apple is expected to unveil the new ...
First Look Big Sur Feature2

Apple Releases macOS Big Sur 11.2.2 to Prevent MacBooks From Being Damaged by Third-Party Non-Compliant Docks

Thursday February 25, 2021 10:07 am PST by
Apple today released macOS Big Sur 11.2.2, the fourth update to the macOS Big Sur operating system that launched in November. macOS Big Sur 11.2.2 comes two weeks after the release of macOS Big Sur 11.2.1, a bug fix update. The new ‌‌‌‌macOS Big Sur‌‌‌ 11.2.2‌ update can be downloaded for free on all eligible Macs using the Software Update section of System Preferences....
steam apple logo

Valve Ordered to Give Apple Information on 436 Steam Games As Part of Epic Games Legal Case

Thursday February 25, 2021 1:50 am PST by
Valve, the makers behind popular game distribution platform Steam, will be forced to hand over aggregate historical sales, price, and other information on 436 games hosted on the store to Apple, as part of the Apple vs. Epic Games antitrust case. As reported in a paywalled report by Law360, during a virtual discovery hearing on Wednesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas S. Hixson ordered that...
scott forstall original iphone

Epic Games 'Attempting to Locate' Former iOS Chief Scott Forstall to Testify in Ongoing Legal Battle with Apple

Tuesday February 23, 2021 4:22 am PST by
As part of its ongoing legal battle, Epic Games is now seeking testimony from Apple's former iOS software chief, Scott Forstall. Forstall left Apple in 2013, in what was widely reported at the time to have been a forced exit, largely because of the botched early launch of Apple Maps. Since then, Forstall has kept a very low profile and has only made a few media appearances in the past few...