Tim Cook: Apple Will Not Create ‘Software Equivalent of Cancer’

Company abiding a federal order to help the FBI unlock an iPhone linked to a terrorist would be “bad for America,” CEO says

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Apple CEO Tim Cook said the gadget giant would be forced to create the “software equivalent of cancer” if it abided by a federal order to help the FBI unlock an iPhone linked to a terrorist.

“We would never write it, we have never written it,” he said in an interview with ABC News. Helping the U.S. government unlock the iPhone linked to one of the shooters in December’s San Bernardino, Calif., mass shooting would be “bad for America” because it could expose users at large to “incredible vulnerabilities.”

Cook thrust Apple’s case against the FBI and Department of Justice into a international spotlight last week when he said the company would refuse to help the FBI crack the San Bernardino phone.

During the ABC interview, Cook said of the thousands of emails he’s received on the matter, the single largest group is people in the military who support Apple’s position. But he said that public opinion wasn’t the main issue: “This is not about a poll. This is about the future.”

He reiterated Apple’s stance that this is a debate best left to lawmakers and not the court system, and said he planned to talk to President Barack Obama directly to put the debate “on a better path.”

The conflict centers on an iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook, who, with his wife, Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 people. To access data on the iPhone, the Justice Department secured a federal court order telling Apple to develop software that makes it easier to hack its passcode, but Apple says creating such a key could threaten the security of consumers’ digital privacy at large.

“Think about what else [a court] could ask us to write. Maybe it’s an operating system for surveillance, maybe it’s the ability for the law enforcement to turn on the camera,” he said. “I don’t know we are this stops, but I do know that this is not what should be happening in this country. This is not what should be happening in America.”