On Tuesday, February 16th, Reuters reported that Judge Sheri Pym of the U.S. District Court’s Central District of California demanded Apple unlock the phone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook to assist the FBI. This ruling came just a week after FBI director James Comey acknowledged that the phone was still under the possession of the FBI and encrypted.
In response to the court’s order, Apple CEO Tim Cook released a statement on the company’s website called “A Message to Our Customers” where Cook detailed that the FBI’s request asked for a back door to be built, giving the agency access to the phone.
In this specific case, the FBI told Apple to build a new iOS system that allowed an infinite amount of password attempts in order to crack into the phone.
“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,” Cook wrote. “And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.”
Cook ended the statement to confirm that Apple would not comply with court orders saying, “Ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.”
Immediately, other members of the tech community began to speak up in Apple’s defense. Google CEO Sundar Pichai said, “We build secure products to keep your information safe and we give law enforcement access to data based on valid legal orders,” he continued, “…But that’s wholly different than requiring companies to enable hacking of customer devices & data. Could be a troubling precedent.”
The group Reform Government Surveillance, which is made up of Microsoft, Twitter, AOL, Yahoo, Facebook, LinkedIn and more, released a statement siding with Apple, agreeing that “technology companies should not be required to build in backdoors to the technologies that keep their users’ information secure.”
Even the former director of the NSA and CIA, Michael Hayden, came out in support of Apple, stating “America is simply more secure with unbreakable end-to-end encryption.”
Because the FBI is specifically asking for a new version of iOS to be built for their use, this opens the door for the FBI to ask for access to others’ phones again and again. It also raises the fear that the FBI will secretly use this tool to access users’ phones without their knowledge.
Apple has repeatedly mentioned that creating a backdoor to give the FBI access leaves the door open for other hackers to gain access as well. In a world where hacking is at an all time high, Apple is doing the right thing by protecting user information at all costs. If the company creates a loophole designed solely for the government’s use to access user information, there’s no question that hackers will somehow gain access to this loophole and exploit private information.
At times like these, Apple needs support from users to appreciate their stance against the U.S. government’s attempt to invade users’ privacy.