Apple Rejects Court Order to Unlock San Bernardino Shooter’s iPhone

CEO Tim Cook warns of slippery slope that could lead to tracking your location or tapping into your phone’s camera

Last Updated: February 17, 2016 @ 7:29 AM

Apple is opposing a court order to help the Federal Bureau of Investigation unlock an iPhone used by a shooter in December’s deadly attack in San Bernardino, Calif., accusing the U.S. government of overreach.

In a letter posted online, CEO Tim Cook said complying with the request could pave the way for the government extending itself into private citizens data, raising the specter of potential demands “that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.”

As electronics like smartphones have become vital parts of mainstream consumers’ everyday lives, encryption elements protect the privacy of intimate facets of millions of people’s lives. But the potential for gadgets like iPhones to be meaningful crime-solving tools has set up conflicts between law enforcement’s mandate for public safety and manufacturers’ desire to protect their customers’ privacy.

Tuesday, a judge in the Federal District Court for the District of Central California ordered Apple to build software that could unlock the iPhone used by Syed Farook for the FBI. Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 people and injured 21 in a shooting attack at a holiday party before they were killed by police.

“While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products,” Cook wrote. “And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.”

“We are challenging the FBI’s demands with the deepest respect for American democracy and a love of our country. We believe it would be in the best interest of everyone to step back and consider the implications,” he added.