Replying to the order issued against Apple by the U.S. Federal judge to unlock the iPhone 5c of one of the terrorists in the San Bernardino case, Tim Cook has written an open letter to customers, in which he has explained them what is at stake here and what the implications will be if Apple ends up following the court orders.
Cook starts his letter by saying that with smartphones becoming a key part of our lives, we have started storing more of our important and vital personal information in them, which hackers and people with malicious intents are always trying to steal and use for their own benefit.
Thereby, Apple customers expect the company to protect their privacy and safeguard their data at all costs, which is what the company has successfully been able to do so far. In fact, Apple is so serious about this that it does not store the data in its own servers and even discards the encryption key that is required to decrypt the encrypted data of its customers on it servers.
However, the U.S. government is now asking Apple to create a backdoor in iOS that will allow them to access the data present in the iPhone 5c of one of the shooters of the San Bernardino case. As Cook puts it, “specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation.”
Cook says that this tool, which does not exist today, might allow hackers to unlock any iPhone that they have physical access to. And irrespective of the government’s promise that this tool will be used specifically in this case and destroyed after that, there is no guarantee that someone else will not use the same algorithm to create a similar backdoor in the future.
Cook adds that FBI is proposing the government to use the All Writs Act of 1789 to “to justify an expansion of its authority.” Down the line, the government’s demands can be chilling and using the All Writs Act like this will essentially allow it to order Apple to bypass any security measure and access the data of anyone’s iPhone.
In the end, Cook says that Apple is challenging the FBI’s demands “with deepest respect for American democracy and a love of our country.” He requests that all the involved parties take a step back and consider the implications if Apple agrees to the U.S. court order.
In the end, it can be argued that Cook is raising the correct issues in his letter. While it might be a one-off request from the U.S. government, there is no guarantee that Apple will not receive similar requests in the future and the tool will not make its way to people with malicious intents.
Do you agree with Tim Cook here?
The full open letter from Tim Cook can be read here.