In last night’s interview with ABC News anchor David Muir, Apple CEO Tim Cook outlined the company’s objections to the U.S. government’s request that Apple build a new version of iOS to help the FBI unlock the iPhone used by the San Bernardino shooter. Cook likened the the idea of creating an entirely new build of its operating system to the “software equivalent of cancer,” stating that Apple would essentially have to write a new piece of software that would be “bad news to write” and that it believes would be a “very dangerous operating system” due to what it would be capable of doing, as well as the precedent that it would set. As Cook went on to explain, acceding to such a request could open the door to other government requests for more extensive custom operating system modifications to enable other types of surveillance, putting customers at risk and “trampling” civil liberties.
“If a court can ask us to write this piece of software, think about what else they could ask us to write—maybe it’s an operating system for surveillance, maybe the ability for the law enforcement to turn on the camera … I don’t know where this stops. But I do know that this is not what should be happening in this country.”
Cook told ABC News that Apple has cooperated with the FBI in every other way, but drew the line at building a customized piece of software that would create a backdoor that would compromise the iPhone’s security design. As Cook explained, “We gave everything that we had” to the FBI, and at this point neither Apple nor the FBI even knows if there is any other information on the iPhone in question, but that to do what the FBI is now asking would “expose hundreds of millions of people to issues.” The issue is not merely about privacy, but also about the public’s safety and protecting Apple’s customers, Cook said.
In related news, The New York Times reports that Apple is working on building new security measures into next-generation iPhone models and iOS software that would essentially create a security model that even Apple itself would not be able to work around or create backdoors into. Citing sources close to the company, along with other security experts, the new system would create an even more serious challenge for law enforcement agencies, putting Apple in a position where it would be unable to be compelled to override the security as the FBI is trying to do in the current case. Even if the FBI were to win in the current battle, the new technology would likely prompt a new cycle of court fights, and could possibly result in a new set of laws. Experts also suggest this could prompt Congress to get involved, extending decades-old Federal wiretapping laws that would require tech companies like Apple and Google to make data accessible to law enforcement agencies in the same way that traditional phone carriers are required to do now.
Meanwhile, despite Apple’s current fight with the U.S. Government over the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone, the company is in fact working with the Obama administration to fight ISIS messaging, according to a new report from CNN. Apple reportedly participated in a meeting on Wednesday, along with executives from Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, MTV, and Buzzfeed, to provide input and suggestions to top counter intelligence officials. The goal of the meeting seems to be to help the government combat ISIS on social media, where the terrorist group has “inspired potential lone wolf assailants to carry out attacks.” U.S. Government agencies involved in the meeting included the U.S. Justice Department — with whom Apple is currently in a standoff over the San Bernardino iPhone case — as well as the National Security Council and State Department. The British Embassy was also reportedly present for the discussions.