Apple made a rare appearance at CES 2020 this year. The company did not announce any new product or services as its appearance was focused on privacy. The company’s senior director for global privacy Jane Horvath was a part of the panel at CES 2020 which featured executives from Facebook and the FTC as well.
During a Q&A session, Horvath was asked about Apple’s use of encryption in its products and services and how it ends up creating difficulties for law enforcement agencies. She notes that Apple designs its products to protect consumer data so as to win their trust.
She notes that for Apple to retrieve data from a locked iPhone that is yet to be uploaded to the cloud, the company would need to create a special software (read: backdoor) for such circumstances.
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“Our phones are relatively small and they get lost and stolen,” Horvath said. “If we’re going to be able to rely on our health data and finance data on our devices, we need to make sure that if you misplace that device, you’re not losing your sensitive data.”
Apple’s global privacy director further notes that the company has a team working round the clock to meet the demand of law enforcement agencies. While the company intends to help them as much as possible, it cannot end up creating back doors into encryption for them.
Apple’s take on privacy and encryption has led the company to quite a few standoffs with law enforcement agencies. In 2016, the FBI asked Apple to unlock the phone of the San Bernardino shooter which the latter refused to do citing lack of tools. Apple’s resistance ultimately led to the FBI getting the shooter’s iPhone unlocked from an Israeli firm Cellebrite.
More recently, the FBI has once again asked Apple for help to unlock two iPhones owned by Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, the man accused of killing three people at a Naval Air Station in Florida.