White House Says FBI Doesn't Want Backdoor Access to All iPhones
A court ruling asking Apple to give the FBI access to the information on an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters does not mean the agency wants a backdoor to one of its products, the White House said. Rather, the FBI just wants access to the data on that one device.
Earlier this week, Cook wrote a letter to customers explaining why he flat out refuses to comply with a court order to unlock the iPhone of San Bernardino gunman Syed Farook. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California has ordered Apple to help the FBI access the data on Farook's iPhone.
In a court filing Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker referred to unlocking the device as "another step -- a potentially important step -- in the process of learning everything we possibly can about the attack in San Bernardino."
On December 2, Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, shot at people gathered at an event for the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health. The couple killed 14 people and seriously wounded 20 others. Farook and his wife were killed in a shootout with police. Since the attack, authorities have been going through their belongings, including their smartphones, trying to determine their motives and whether they were part of a larger terrorist plot.
Cook is known for taking strong stands for consumer privacy. He has publicly attacked Facebook and Google -- and the U.S. government -- for undermining the privacy rights of American citizens. Now, some are saying his latest stand could be his ultimate legacy.
White House Responds
"Up to this point, we have done everything that is both within our power and within the law to help them," Cook said. "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 White House has responded to Cook’s letter with strong disagreement. During a press briefing yesterday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is "not asking Apple to redesign its product or to create a new backdoor to one of their products." Rather, the DOJ is "simply asking for something that would have an impact on this one device," he said.
Apple could not immediately be reached for comment, but Cook doesn't appear willing to budge. He has said that Apple must speak up in the face of what the company sees as an overreach by the U.S. government. He said it's not about this one case as much as it is about the implications.
"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," Cook said in the letter to customers. "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."
Cook Will Be Remembered for This
Ultimately, though, Cook might have to back off this defiant stance. But the fact that he's making it -- and making it passionately -- could define his legacy.
Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, agreed. He told us Cook is highly visible and clearly taking a lead position during an election -- and becoming part of the election dialog.
"He will likely be praised by some and cursed by others for this as a result, but it will be a part of his legacy. How big a part will depend on how long this goes on, what the result is, and what else he does that is newsworthy during his career," Enderle said. "But he will be remembered for this."
Chenxi Wang, chief strategy officer at Twistlock, a computer and network security firm, is also watching the case unfold. He told the Los Angeles Times that Apple is an American company fighting an order from an American court.
"This will absolutely have a ripple effect," Wang said. "Apple is now viewed as the flag bearer for protecting citizen data, and if they succeed, there will be a flood of other companies following suit."
Civil Rights Realist:
Posted: 2016-02-20 @ 7:10am PT
Apple is wrong. Cook and crew are acting all self-righteous. But 14 Americans were killed and 20 others were seriously injured by these 2 terrorists in San Bernardino.
Our government has the right and the need to investigate who those terrorists were, and with whom they were in contact. The investigation won't bring back those 14 innocent people we lost, but it could help prevent the next 14 or 1,400 from dying in another terrorist attack on our soil.
C'mon Tim Cook and everyone jumping on the bandwagon... wakeup! We're facing a huge and horrific threat with radical Islamic terrorists overseas and right here in our own backyards.
They're more than happy to use technology against us and we shouldn't be afraid to use it for our own protection.
Posted: 2016-02-18 @ 3:15pm PT
If Apple does this to access this iPhone it creates the potential to access all iPhones and what little privacy we have is eroded further. This invasion on citizens' privacy has to be stopped! We need to put pressure on our elected officials in support of Apple.