Tuesday 6 December 2016

Apple's Tim Cook’s opposition to the FBI’s demand was as inevitable as a new iPhone

The Apple chief penned an open letter to the firm's customers, explaining why unlocking an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters would pose a significant threat to data security.

Published 19/02/2016 | 12:26

Tim Cook CEO Apple Inc. who paid a visit to Independent News and Media's offices on Talbot Street is interviewed by Adrian Weckler.
Pic Steve Humphreys
Tim Cook CEO Apple Inc. who paid a visit to Independent News and Media's offices on Talbot Street is interviewed by Adrian Weckler. Pic Steve Humphreys
Tim Cook
Tim Cook

This week the United States government ordered Apple to help the FBI unlock an iPhone 5C, which belonged to one of the shooters of the San Bernardino massacre.

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While no one is disputing the immediate nature of the Government’s intentions, it could very well set a worrying precedent for data security, something Tim Cook is well versed on.

His company’s objection to the order from the US Government was as inevitable as the fact that Apple will release a new iPhone this year.

Cook has spoken at length in the past about his fondness towards Europe’s stance on privacy and his objections against building a ‘backdoor’ into his company’s products.

A backdoor is a method of bypassing the normal encryption of a product, in this case the shooter's iPhone 5C.

Apple is being ordered to build a new iOS (the operating software that runs iPhones) that will assist the FBI to access data stored on the phone that may further its investigations.

In an interview with the Irish Independent in November, Cook told Adrian Weckler that Mr Cameron would not succeed in passing the controversial proposed law.

“At the moment as you know, we encrypt iMessage end to end and we have no backdoor. And we have no intention of changing that,” Cook said in November.

Cook said that he was sure the UK would not pass a bill that would weaken encryption.

In November he also said that the EU’s stance on privacy compared favourably to that of the US’.

“I think Europe is leading the world on that topic and it’s great. I feel right at home when I come to Europe and talk about privacy.”

In July British Prime Minister, David Cameron, signalled his intention to try to ban encryption in the UK, making it more difficult for terrorists to communicate.

Naturally, his intentions were met by significant backlash from data privacy activists.

In a striking message to Apple customers this week Cook reaffirmed both his and his company’s stance on data privacy,

He wrote that compromising the security of personal information could put personal safety “at risk”.

“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,” Cook said in an open letter to customers.

The Apple chief continued, saying despite the differing ways the FBI have billed it, the Government is in fact asking the firm to build a backdoor.

“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,” he said.

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