Apple CEO Tim Cook has responded forcefully to U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym’s order that Apple assist the FBI in hacking into an iPhone used by one of the assailants in the December 2015 San Bernardino shootings.
To be clear, Apple is already helping the FBI in the investigation, complying with with production orders and making Apple engineers available to advise them. What Apple is refusing to do is to build a new operating system that will bypass security features to let the FBI hack in to the iPhone.
Cook has released a compelling statement explaining why he will fight the order. His eloquent response captures the essence of the tension between privacy by encryption, and security by surveillance. The erosion of privacy is a slippery slope, and Cook points out the dangerous precedent this order sets. “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 concludes with his fear that the consequences of the FBI compelling them to build a backdoor “would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.”
The other compelling reason for Apple to oppose this order is economic. Privacy matters to consumers. Apple has invested heavily in its security model, and that investment is paying huge dividends. This response gave Cook the opportunity to reinforce Apple’s security philosophy and, if they are successful in their challenge, it may help to sell more iPhones.