In what some have described as his “defining moment”, CEO of Apple Tim Cook has defied the US government by refusing to have his company hack the iPhone of one the San Bernardino shooters.
After being ordered by the federal magistrate’s court to provide “reasonable technical assistance” to investigators, Cook has pushed back, penning an open letter and slamming the order as a “dangerous precedent”.
“The United States Government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers,” he writes.
“We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand.”
Tim Cook on why he defends encryption with no “back doors” (post continues after video):
In December, Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, shot dead 14 people at a holiday luncheon for Farook’s co-worker and were later killed after a gun battle with police.
The couple physically crushed their personal mobile phones to stop the FBI gaining access to them and threw the hard drive from their computer into a lake.
Farook’s work phone was recovered, but is protected by a passcode.
It’s not clear, what investigators hope to gain by accessing the data, but they have asked Apple to disable the phone’s auto-erase function, which would see its contents deleted after 10 incorrect guesses at the code.
This would essentially make it possible for them to break into the phone — it would also mean creating technology that could grant access to the hundreds of millions of iPhones that have been sold worldwide.
As Cook points out, smartphones — led by iPhone — are now an essential part of our daily lives and store incredible amounts of personal information — photos, music, notes, calendars, contacts, financial information, private conversations.
“All that information needs to be protected from hackers and criminals who want to access it, steal it, and use it without our knowledge or permission” he says.
“Customers expect Apple and other technology companies to do everything in our power to protect their personal information, and at Apple we are deeply committed to safeguarding their data.”
Cook says he shares the public shock and outrage over the San Bernardino terrorist attack and has worked hard to assist the government in their investigations, but describes the implication of the FBI’s demands as “chilling”. He ends by saying:
“Ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.”
So far the move has been well receive with many praising the decision on social media.