In an exclusive interview, Apple CEO Tim Cook explained to ABC News anchor David Muir why he refused to create software that would help the FBI break into an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino, California, shooters.
The FBI has called on Apple to help crack into the iPhone of Syed Farook, who, along with wife Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 and injured 22 at a holiday party in December. Last week, at the request of the Justice Department, a federal judge ordered Apple to assist law enforcement. The tech giant, however, refused and vowed to fight the order, sparking a continuing fight between federal authorities and Silicon Valley.
Cook told “World News Tonight” anchor that to essentially create software enabling the FBI to unlock an iPhone amounted to the “software equivalent of cancer.”
“I think safety of the public is incredibly important — safety of our kids, safety of our family is very important,” Cook said. “The protection of people’s data is incredibly important, and so the trade-off here is we know that doing this could expose people to incredible vulnerabilities.”
This [master key] is not something we would create,” Cook said. “This would be bad for America. It would also set a precedent that I believe many people in America would be offended by.”
“If a court can ask us to write this piece of software, think about what else they could ask us to write — maybe it’s an operating system for surveillance, maybe the ability for the law enforcement to turn on the camera,” Cook said. “I don’t know where this stops. But I do know that this is not what should be happening in this country.”
Apple Has Received at Least 15 Federal Requests to Unlock iPhones in Past 5 Months
In a message to customers last week, Cook said that Apple had helped the FBI, but would not create a so-called backdoor that would have the potential to unlock any iPhone, not just the one that belonged to Farook. Apple decision was hailed by some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley, including Google CEO Sundar Pichai and WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum.
“We gave everything that we had,” he told Muir. “We don’t know that there’s any information on the phone. We don’t know whether there is or there isn’t. And the FBI doesn’t know. … What we do know is we passed all of the information that we have on the phone and to get additional information on it or at least what the FBI would like us to do now would expose hundreds of millions of people to issues.”
Cook said that the issue was not just about privacy, but also about the public’s safety.
“This case is not about one phone,” Cook said today. “This case is about the future. … If we knew a way to get the information on the phone — that we haven’t already given — if we knew a way to do this, that would not expose hundreds of millions of other people to issues, we would obviously do it. … Our job is to protect our customers.”