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Apple's Software Chief Denies Creating an iPhone Backdoor for Any Government

Apple says it has never agreed to any demand to change its technology—especially from China.
March 16, 2016, 3:38pm
Apple's Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi. (Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Apple has never undermined or reduced the security of its own products at the request of any government in the world, according to the man who oversees all the company's software.

Apple software chief Craig Federighi's comments are part of a sworn declaration filed on Tuesday in the ongoing court fight between the tech giant and the FBI over the iPhone of one of the shooters in San Bernardino. Apple is trying to make this clear because the US government accused the company of making "special accommodations" to the Chinese government in order to get into the country's market.

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"Apple has never worked with any government agency from any country to create a 'backdoor' in any of our products or services," Federighi said in a statement filed along with Apple's latest response to the Department of Justice.

Federighi explained that Apple has never agreed to change the security underlying its products at the request of any government agency, as Apple "uses the same security protocols everywhere in the world."

His declaration was echoed in the company's brief.

"Apple has never built a back door of any kind into iOS, or otherwise made data stored on the iPhone or in iCloud more technically accessible to any country's government," the company wrote.

To support its accusation that Apple has been cozy with China, the Department of Justice cited news reports that Apple had started storing customer data inside of China, and reports from media close to the Chinese government, which last year proclaimed Apple had agreed to accept China's "security checks," turning over source code to government inspectors.

While Apple has indeed accepted some demands from the Chinese government, Federighi specifically denied providing the Chinese, or anyone else, with the code underlying its products.

"Apple has also not provided any government with its proprietary iOS source code," he wrote. "While governmental agencies in various countries, including the United States, perform regulatory reviews of new iPhone releases, all that Apple provides in those circumstances is an unmodified iPhone device."

The government's underlying argument is that if Apple already agreed to do something for China, there's no reason it should deny the US government's request in this case. But for Apple, this is not a case of turning over data Apple already owns, this is about creating new software designed to modify the default security built into the iPhone—that's where Apple is drawing the line.

"We believe any such access is too dangerous to allow," Federighi said.