A federal judge has ordered Apple to unlock the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters, and Apple CEO Tim Cook has responded with a letter noting that Apple opposes the court order. As reported by NBC News, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has argued that it needs Apple’s help to access encrypted content contained on the iPhone in question. The court ruled that Apple had five days to respond if the company believed compliance would be “unreasonably burdensome.” The iPhone is actually owned by the employer of the shooter, the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, and the county has consented to investigators’ requests to search its contents.
Apple’s official response has arrived much earlier than five days. In an open letter titled “A Message to Our Customers,” Apple CEO Tim Cook has reiterated the company’s stance against creating a “backdoor” for government access to encrypted content. As the letter begins, “The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers. We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand.”
As Cook’s letter notes, “Compromising the security of our personal information can ultimately put our personal safety at risk.” While Apple has provided data to the FBI as related to the San Bernardino case, and “Apple complies with valid subpoenas and search warrants,” the idea of building a backdoor to the iPhone is “too dangerous to create.” Cook claims the FBI is asking the company to build a version of iOS that circumvents certain security features. While the FBI is only seeking a tool for this specific iPhone, Cook claims the creation of an unlocking tool would create a technique that “could be used over and over again, on any number of devices.” Cook’s letter says the “implications of the government’s demands are chilling,” and in opposing the order, Apple “must speak up in the face of what we see as an overreach by the U.S. government.”