If Apple is Ordered to Unlock iPhone for FBI, Some Engineers Might Refuse to Help

Should the FBI win its ongoing legal battle with Apple, resulting in the Cupertino company being ordered to unlock the iPhone 5c used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook, some Apple engineers may decide not to cooperate with law enforcement.

Apple employees who might be called on to help the FBI are already considering their actions should Apple lose the case, reports The New York Times, following interviews with half a dozen people involved in the development of mobile products and security at Apple.

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Apple employees are already discussing what they will do if ordered to help law enforcement authorities. Some say they may balk at the work, while others may even quit their high-paying jobs rather than undermine the security of the software they have already created, according to more than a half-dozen current and former Apple employees.

Accessing the iPhone in question would require Apple to comply with an FBI request for a new version of iOS that would both bypass passcode restrictions on the device and allow the FBI to enter a passcode electronically instead of manually. Apple has said it will take six to ten engineers a period of two to four weeks to develop the new operating system.

Should Apple engineers decide not to develop the software the FBI is requesting, it could significantly delay the FBI's efforts to access the phone and it could result in legal consequences for those involved. As The New York Times points out, developing what Apple calls "GovtOS" would be difficult without the cooperation of key engineers, and Apple employees already have a solid idea who would be called on to help.

They include an engineer who developed software for the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV. That engineer previously worked at an aerospace company. Another is a senior quality-assurance engineer who is described as an expert "bug catcher" with experience testing Apple products all the way back to the iPod. A third likely employee specializes in security architecture for the operating systems powering the iPhone, Mac and Apple TV.

If Apple employees refuse to write the code for the software, Apple could potentially face hefty fines for non-compliance.

Apple will face off against the FBI in court next Tuesday, one day after the company's March 21 event that will see the debut of the 4-inch iPhone SE and the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. Both Apple and the FBI have previously submitted several briefs arguing their sides.

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

darkgoob Avatar
107 months ago
It's not just about that one phone. The Atlantic already reported that court documents show it's about at least 12 phones. Then after that, surely the floodgates would be opened.

If Apple complies with this, they tacitly set a precedent. Then, every agency (NSA, CIA, every other government in the world and all their agencies, etc.) will come clamoring to have things unlocked.

So Apple will then have to leave backdoors in their phones in order to continue being able to comply ... they simply can't keep making unbreakable phones, then wasting tons of time finding a way to break it, over and over again.

If they leave a backdoor then hackers will find it and nobody's phones will be safe. You'll plug your iPhone in a charger in a Chinese hotel and it will be owned. Etc. Defense contractors' phones will get owned, China will steal yet more secrets; terrorists will hack airline pilots phones and be able to impersonate them and hijack planes; hackers will get into nuclear facilities through compromised devices.

We just can't have insecure phones. This is where I store my heartbeat, my sleep cycles, my wallet, my most personal notes, logins to all my social media accounts that could be used to ruin my reputation; I would not dare trust it if I knew there was even a chance of it having a back door.

The price of having privacy in society is the risk that criminals or terrorists may use that privacy to conceal their activities. I'm willing to pay that price; it's the price of freedom.

Those brave soldiers who fight to protect our freedom are fighting to protect this: our right to privacy and individuality and freedom from constant surveillance.

If we give up that, then the terrorists have already won.
Score: 100 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Z400Racer37 Avatar
107 months ago
I knew that would happen, These guys are heroic. Apple and it's employees are literally at gunpoint to produce x because the government wants it. What the hell is happening in The Land of the Free...
Score: 85 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Slix Avatar
107 months ago
Good for them. As deep as this situation gets, I'm becoming increasingly proud of Apple's decisions to protect their users' privacy and data for the future.
Score: 51 Votes (Like | Disagree)
PBRsg Avatar
107 months ago
I knew that would happen, These guys are heroic. Apple and it's employees are literally at gunpoint to produce x because the government wants it. What the hell is happening in The Land of the Free...
TBH, I now see government as a bigger threat to my freedom than terrorists. My libertarian instincts were right all along...
Score: 33 Votes (Like | Disagree)
photographypro Avatar
107 months ago
The FBI says this is about one iPhone, but the terrorists destroyed two personal cell phones and removed the hard drive from a computer that has yet to be found. There is NOTHING of value on this particular iPhone. I believe the FBI made a case about it to establish a precedent for all iPhones.
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
pavelbure Avatar
107 months ago
This damn government, they have no idea who is coming over the border, terrorist or seasonal worker, and they really don't care, but they must have the info on this phone for the safety of the nation. Privacy and security for everyone be damned.
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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