It doesn’t look like Apple will be unlocking any iPhones for the FBI anytime soon. In an interview with VICE News, CEO Tim Cook described the government’s assault on Apple to unlock an iPhone carried by one of the terrorists in the 2015 San Bernardino attack as something “I hope never to see again.”
The iPhone 5C was technically the property of the County of San Bernardino and issued to one of the shooters who killed 14 and injured 22 in the December 2015 attack. The feds wanted Apple to write a new OS to open the phone; Cook refused and the case appeared headed for the Supreme Court before the Department of Justice found another means to unlock the phone and dropped its case at the eleventh hour.
“I've never seen the government apparatus move against an individual or a company like this before,” Cook told VICE News. “Maybe I was just naive about the way things work. But I think there was a decision, at some level, that this process needed to exist, and the means to get there wasn't necessarily a topic, and so I saw a side that I had never seen before.
“And I hope to never see it again.”
Since then, Apple has been at the center of the debate over encryption and government access to private communications. Apple’s view is this: It’s your phone; an immense amount of data is stored there, from email and texts to photos and social media to financial and browsing data; and you should be in control of it.
“Our simple view is if you buy a phone from us, it's yours. And I don't have the right or the ability to unlock it. It's encrypted. And it's encrypted with your password,” he said. “The FBI didn't accept that.”
Carrying out the government’s request to build a new OS to unlock iPhones would put hundreds of millions of iPhone users at risk.
“I mean, you could imagine if such a tool existed: It would be the target of everyone in the world to try to guard this tool. And so, we refused,” he said.
Cook felt that this case was unprecedented and said that Apple “could not find a single case in the history of the United States where a company had been ordered to do something that was bad for hundreds of millions of people.”
Cover image: Tim Cook (Photo: VICE News)