Yesterday, Apple released a customer letter on its website explaining why it has refused to assist the FBI in unlocking the smart-phone of Syed Rizwan Farook. Farook was one of the shooters in the San Bernardino massacre that occurred on December 2, 2015.
The investigators are seeking information they believe to be on the phone and had a court order from Judge Sheri Pym of U.S. District Court in Los Angeles for Apple to provide “reasonable technical assistance”.
Apple refused the order and CEO Tim Cook released a letter detailing their stance on the issue. In it he says, “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.”
The letter goes on to say that the FBI wants Apple to build a new version of the iOS system that would allow them to bypass important security features and use it on Farook’s iPhone. The letter also voices Apple’s concerns with the technology.
“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.”
The letter also stated that the FBI is attempting to use the All Writs Act of 1789 to justify the expansion of its authority in this matter and how dangerous this can be.
“The implications of the government’s demands are chilling. 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.”
However, Apple promises to stand firm despite this controversy.
“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. We are challenging the FBI’s demands with the deepest respect for American democracy and a love of our country. We believe it would be in the best interest of everyone to step back and consider the implications. While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products. And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.”