Tim Cook says Apple's dispute with FBI is best handled this way (2023)

Apple is not backing down.

CEO Tim Cook on Monday urged the US government to drop its demands for his company to create a backdoor into an iPhone tied to a terrorist attack. Apple contends that such a breach of security could not be contained and would expose countless iPhone users to unreasonable risks.

Instead, Cook said in an email to employees Monday, he wants Congress to form a commission to "discuss the implications for law enforcement, national security, privacy and personal freedoms."

Cook has been in the spotlight over the past week for standing up to government investigators. In his email, he thanked employees for their support and detailed his stance. Apple also published a Q&A on its website to address customers' questions about the issue.

"Apple is a uniquely American company," Cook said in the email. "It does not feel right to be on the opposite side of the government in a case centering on the freedoms and liberties that government is meant to protect."

For more on Apple's standoff with the FBI

  • How an iPhone became the FBI's public enemy number one (FAQ)
  • Apple says investigators ruined best way to access terrorist data
  • Apple gets to fight judge's iPhone-cracking order another day
  • Tim Cook hits back at 'chilling' order for iPhone 'backdoor'

Leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Monday invited Cook and FBI Director James Comey to appear before the committee "to discuss the issues surrounding encryption -- specifically when privacy and national security issues are raised." Apple didn't immediately say whether Cook plans to attend.

For more than a decade, the tension between privacy and national security has run high over how technology can be used to investigate and anticipate threats. The current standoff between Apple and the FBI also turns up the heat on the simmering battle over encryption -- the technology that scrambles information to prevent unauthorized readers from seeing it -- between Washington and Silicon Valley.

(Video) FBI director, Apple CEO talk privacy and security

Last week, a federal judge ordered Apple to assist the FBI in unlocking an iPhone 5C used by Syed Farook, one of two terrorists who killed 14 people at a party in San Bernardino, California, in December. The government wants Apple to create a new variant of its iOS software to grant investigators access to data on the device, but Cook warned that such a version of iOS would create, for the first time, a backdoor into all of Apple's encrypted devices.

The government is using the All Writs Act, which was signed into law by President George Washington in 1789, to try to force Apple to change its software. The act helped establish the judiciary system in the US, giving federal courts the power to issue orders, which were known as "writs" at the time.

The company has until Friday to respond to the court order, and a hearing is set for March 22 in US District Court for the Central District of California in Riverside. Apple has said it will fight the government's request all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary, because it means creating a "master key" for all phones that would make them less secure.

The FBI disputes that view.

"The relief we seek is limited and its value increasingly obsolete because the technology continues to evolve," Comey said in a statement late Sunday. "We don't want to break anyone's encryption or set a master key loose on the land."

Face-off

Over the weekend, Apple and the FBI traded barbs over the series of events that led to the court battle. The issue could have been avoided, Apple said, if the FBI had connected Farook's iPhone 5C to a familiar Wi-Fi network and had it create a new backup on Apple's iCloud service. But the County of San Bernardino, at the behest of the FBI, had reset Farook's iCloud password.

"Even if the password had not been changed and Apple could have turned on the auto-backup and loaded it to the cloud," the FBI said Sunday, "there might be information on the phone that would not be accessible without Apple's assistance as required by the All Writs Act order, since the iCloud backup does not contain everything on an iPhone."

Cook on Monday called the government's request a "dangerous precedent that threatens everyone's civil liberties" and said that complying with the court order would "roll back data protections to iOS 7," which hit the market in September 2013. With iOS 8, released the following year, Apple started encrypting everything on iPhones, making personal data more secure but also preventing the company from circumventing passcodes to pull data from phones to comply with search warrants, as it had done in the past.

"We all know that turning back the clock on that progress would be a terrible idea," Cook said Monday.

He added that if Apple created a new version of iOS for the government, it couldn't be completely destroyed after use in the San Bernardino and instead could be used over and over again.

"Law enforcement agents around the country have already said they have hundreds of iPhones they want Apple to unlock if the FBI wins this case," Cook said.

(Video) Tim Cook Says Apple Won't Provide Backdoor For FBI | Crunch Report

Americans have been divided over whether Apple should do as the FBI has asked. Donald Trump, the billionaire and frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president, called for a boycott of Apple's products until it complies with the court order. The family of a UK terrorist attack victim also has criticized Apple.

But in his email Monday, Cook said he has received supportive "messages from thousands of people in all 50 states." One email from a 13-year-old app developer "thanked us for standing up for 'all future generations,'" Cook said. "And a 30-year Army veteran told me, 'Like my freedom, I will always consider my privacy as a treasure.'"

Full text of the email to Apple employees from Cook:

Subject: Thank you for your support

Team,

Last week we asked our customers and people across the United States to join a public dialogue about important issues facing our country. In the week since that letter, I've been grateful for the thought and discussion we've heard and read, as well as the outpouring of support we've received from across America.

As individuals and as a company, we have no tolerance or sympathy for terrorists. When they commit unspeakable acts like the tragic attacks in San Bernardino, we work to help the authorities pursue justice for the victims. And that's exactly what we did.

This case is about much more than a single phone or a single investigation, so when we received the government's order we knew we had to speak out. At stake is the data security of hundreds of millions of law-abiding people, and setting a dangerous precedent that threatens everyone's civil liberties.

As you know, we use encryption to protect our customers -- whose data is under siege. We work hard to improve security with every software release because the threats are becoming more frequent and more sophisticated all the time.

(Video) Tim Cook Says iPhone-Cracking Solution is 'Software Equivalent of Cancer'

Some advocates of the government's order want us to roll back data protections to iOS 7, which we released in September 2013. Starting with iOS 8, we began encrypting data in a way that not even the iPhone itself can read without the user's passcode, so if it is lost or stolen, our personal data, conversations, financial and health information are far more secure. We all know that turning back the clock on that progress would be a terrible idea.

Our fellow citizens know it, too. Over the past week I've received messages from thousands of people in all 50 states, and the overwhelming majority are writing to voice their strong support. One email was from a 13-year-old app developer who thanked us for standing up for "all future generations." And a 30-year Army veteran told me, "Like my freedom, I will always consider my privacy as a treasure."

I've also heard from many of you and I am especially grateful for your support.

Many people still have questions about the case and we want to make sure they understand the facts. So today we are posting answers on apple.com/customer-letter/answers/ to provide more information on this issue. I encourage you to read them.

Apple is a uniquely American company. It does not feel right to be on the opposite side of the government in a case centering on the freedoms and liberties that government is meant to protect.

Our country has always been strongest when we come together. We feel the best way forward would be for the government to withdraw its demands under the All Writs Act and, as some in Congress have proposed, form a commission or other panel of experts on intelligence, technology and civil liberties to discuss the implications for law enforcement, national security, privacy and personal freedoms. Apple would gladly participate in such an effort.

People trust Apple to keep their data safe, and that data is an increasingly important part of everyone's lives. You do an incredible job protecting them with the features we design into our products. Thank you.

Tim

(Video) Why Apple is refusing to unlock killer's phone

FAQs

Why did Apple refuse to help the FBI? ›

Apple declined due to its policy which required it to never undermine the security features of its products. The FBI responded by successfully applying to a United States magistrate judge, Sheri Pym, to issue a court order, mandating Apple to create and provide the requested software.

What happened when the FBI asked Apple? ›

Apple provided the FBI with data it had in their possession and sent Apple engineers to advise the FBI, but refused to comply with the court order to bypass the phone's security measures: specifically the 4-digit login code and a feature that erases all data after ten incorrect attempts.

What did the FBI request from Apple Why? ›

The official said the F.B.I. was not asking Apple to create a so-called backdoor or technological solution to get past its encryption that must be shared with the government. Instead, the government is seeking the data that is on the two phones, the official said.

Who won Apple or FBI? ›

Importantly, the court agreed with the FBI that the iPhone hacking tool is both an intelligence source and also an intelligence method. The court sided with the FBI, ruling that it could use the iPhone unlocking technology in future law enforcement activities, making the tool itself a law enforcement technique.

Can police get into a locked iPhone 2022? ›

Even law enforcement agencies have issues gaining access to locked iPhones because Apple eliminates any backdoors it finds in its software. So, in 2022, you can unlock an iPhone without knowing the passcode, but it has to be running an outdated OS.

Does the FBI have access to my phone? ›

Not unless you are under investigation. That said, it's wise to assume your cell & computer communications are subject to being monitored at any time. The Patriot Act allows it. If you're not involved in anything criminal, no sweat.

Can the FBI tap my iPhone? ›

Federal agents cannot legally tap your phone whenever they want to. They have to follow strict guidelines and go through a specific process to obtain approval.

Can the FBI unlock your iPhone? ›

These devices work on very recent iPhone models: Cellebrite claims it can unlock any iPhone for law enforcement, and the FBI has unlocked an iPhone 11 Pro Max using GrayShift's GrayKey device.

What ethical issues are involved in this case Apple vs FBI? ›

The ethical issue in this case is user privacy and government overreach into that user's privacy. The government's attempt to force a tech company to create a back door into a secure product could set a dangerous precedent for future companies.

Can the government access your iPhone? ›

For all requests from government and law enforcement agencies within the United States for content, with the exception of emergency circumstances (defined in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act 1986, as amended), Apple will only provide content in response to a search warrant issued upon a showing of probable ...

Does Apple sell your information to the government? ›

Apple gave data to law enforcement 90% of the time

In the first half of 2021, Apple received 7,122 law enforcement requests in the US for the account data of 22,427 people. According to the company's most recent transparency report, Apple handed over some level of data in response to 90% of the requests.

What were Apple's arguments in the case? ›

Apple argued that helping to open one iPhone would produce code that could be used to make private information on all iPhones vulnerable, not only to the American government but also to other foreign governments and criminal elements.

Is the lawsuit against Apple real? ›

Apple has admitted no wrongdoing on its part. It still agreed to pay out $95 million to settle the lawsuit back in October 2021.

How much did Apple lose in the lawsuit? ›

Apple's $14.8 Million iCloud Settlement: When Will My Money Arrive? A class action suit claimed Apple didn't tell iCloud subscribers it used third-party servers to store their data.

Did Apple lose the lawsuit? ›

Apple has agreed to a $14.8 million settlement “for breach of contract regarding the iCloud Service that Apple provides to its users.” The crux of the case is that Apple breached the iCloud Terms and Conditions by storing iCloud user data using third-party servers rather than its own.

Can I refuse to unlock my phone for police? ›

No, the police can't require you to unlock your phone without a search warrant. But even when police have a warrant, some courts have ruled that your cellphone password is protected by the Fifth Amendment and you cannot be compelled to share it.

Do I have to give police my phone password? ›

The answer in short to this question is no. However, by failing to comply with a police officers request could result in a prosecution.

Can police read text messages that have been deleted? ›

If you simply delete a text, they are still available. And there are common forensics tools used by both law enforcement and civil investigators to recover them.

How long can the FBI tap your phone? ›

Once the order is issued, the wiretap cannot last more than 30 days. If the prosecutor still needs to wiretap a phone, he or she will have to submit another request to the judge and explain what was found. The court can order the prosecutor to submit reports about the wiretap and any information that has been found.

Can someone watch you through your phone camera? ›

If an unauthorized person wants to see you through your phone's camera, using a spyware app is a viable method. Fortunately, if your stalker isn't a sophisticated hacker, the software they use may appear as an open application running behind the scenes.

Can police tap your phone without your knowledge? ›

Yes, but there are usually rules for tapping a phone line, such as restrictions on time so that law enforcement can't listen indefinitely. The police are also supposed to limit wiretapping to telephone conversations that will probably result in evidence for their case.

What is the number to check if your phone is tapped? ›

*#21# When you dial *#21#, it will display the various sorts of diversion status which is happening with the number. This will display the information and you will come to know if your calls or messages are tapped.

What is the number to see if your iPhone is tapped? ›

Code to check if phone is tapped: *#21#

Some hackers go further and forward all your calls and messages, no matter if you're available or out of reach. This type of attack is called unconditional data forwarding or diversion. Such activity is harder to spot.

Can the FBI track your phone if its off? ›

Once they have a warrant, the police can access a phone's GPS data through a cell provider and view its current or last known location. Police and cell providers can track any phone that is connected to a cellular network in real time unless the phone is dead or turned off.

Can cops force you to unlock your phone with your face? ›

Under the current law, police officers can require you to unlock your cellphone with facial recognition and fingerprint identification. However, police officers cannot require you to provide a pattern lock or a passcode/password to unlock your phone.

Can the police spy on your iPhone? ›

Law enforcement wants access to personal data on my phone. Can they do that? Short answer: If your phone is protected by a passcode or biometric unlocking features, there's a chance police can't gain access to your personal data. But that's not guaranteed.

How do you know if the feds are watching? ›

How Do You Know You're Under Federal Investigation?
  • The knock on the door. Most people who are under investigation learn about it when law enforcement knocks on their door and asks to talk to them. ...
  • A search warrant. ...
  • A subpoena. ...
  • For federal employees - an OIG meeting. ...
  • The Target Letter. ...
  • The word on the street.

How does Apple solve ethical issues? ›

Apple handles ethical issues by introducing a business conduct guide for all employees and partners to follow. It also set many goals to counter the impact of the production processes on the environment and improve working conditions.

What unethical violations does Apple have? ›

Despite its commitments, there seem to be several ethical issues with Apple (see Figure 2 below). These include poor working conditions such as health and safety risks, child labour, poor environmental reporting, contribution to e-waste and tax avoidance.

Is Apple ethical or unethical? ›

Apple conducts business ethically, honestly, and in full compliance with the law. We believe that how we conduct ourselves is as critical to Apple's success as making the best products in the world.

Can the government see you through your iPhone camera? ›

No. Security is one of the top priorities at Apple. Communication on your iPhone is encrypted as well as the data that resides inside of it. Without an Apple ID password, it is impossible to get into the device without having physical access to it.

Can the government see your iPhone photos? ›

Your every moment can be tracked through your mobile device (both Android and iOS). Government security agencies like the NSA also have access to your devices- where they can listen to your phone calls, read your messages, capture pictures of you, stream videos of you, read your emails, and more.

Can the FBI tap Facetime? ›

Carriers cannot intercept iMessages because they're encrypted and routed over Apple servers—and the same thing applies to Facetime. However, if the government were to go directly to Apple, it may be possible to pressure the company, in secret, to make services like iMessage and Facetime wiretap compliant.

Does the government have access to my cell phone? ›

In most of the United States, police can get many kinds of cellphone data without obtaining a warrant. Law-enforcement records show police can use initial data from a tower dump to ask for another court order for more information, including addresses, billing records and logs of calls, texts and locations.

Can iPhones be hacked by police? ›

The police can send the trickiest phones to crack, such as the latest iPhones, to Cellebrite, which will unlock them for about $2,000 a device, according to invoices. Law enforcement can also buy a similar premium tool from Cellebrite.

Can the feds get into your iCloud? ›

Unless they have the passcode or a suspect unlocks the device for them, there is nothing at all that either law enforcement or Apple can retrieve from the device.

What was Apple's biggest mistake? ›

One of Apple's most significant mistakes was letting Jobs go, and if it did not purchase NeXT, there would literally be no Apple today.

What is Apple's biggest problem? ›

“Apple's biggest challenge is maintaining its incredible performance over the last few years,” Ben Wood, chief analyst at CCS Insight, tells Verdict. “Shareholder expectations remain exceptionally high so it affords the company little room for any errors. A good example are the current component shortages.

What is Apple's biggest threat? ›

However, Apple faces the threats of aggressive competition and imitation, which are challenges affecting players in the global market for consumer electronics, computer hardware and software, and online digital content distribution services.

How do I claim Apple settlement 2022? ›

As Settlement Administrator for the matter, we're sending you this courtesy email to inform you that by August 30, 2022, you will receive a payment notification email that contains a link to claim your payment electronically. Once you receive that email, you will have until November 28, 2022 to claim your payment.

How much will each person get for Apple settlement? ›

Eligible developers were expected to receive a payment between $250 and $30,000 from Apple depending on their total App Store earnings, but actual payments are higher since not all developers submitted a claim, thus increasing each developer's share of the settlement.

What is the status of the Apple class action lawsuit? ›

Apple Inc. California class action regarding unpaid wages for time spent in bag and technology checks has settled.

Does Apple purposely slow down old phones? ›

Apple slows down older iPhone's performance to preserve battery life in the long term. To appease the populace, the company introduced a performance management feature in iOS 11.3. This system periodically assesses how well the battery can support the phone's power requirements.

Why do iPhones get slower over time? ›

After you've had an iPhone for a while and the excitement wears off, it might feel like it runs slower than when you first took it out of the box. Sometimes, that's not a feeling. We now know that Apple does slow down older iPhones to manage the battery better.

Does Apple still throttling older phones? ›

We have never – and would never – do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades,” Apple said in a statement on Thursday.

Can you sue Apple and win? ›

Introduction to suing Apple in Small Claims Court

Apple can be sued for $10,000 in their home state of California in small claims court. In other state, it can be as much as $20,000.

Did Microsoft actually save Apple? ›

Microsoft saved Apple from bankruptcy. In 1997, Microsoft saved Apple from almost-certain bankruptcy by making a $150 million investment. Steve Jobs announced it on stage at his first appearance as Apple CEO, to boos from the audience.

Did Apple steal ideas from Samsung? ›

In a retrospective by The Wall Street Journal's Joanna Stern, Apple VP Greg Joswiak had this to say about Samsung's earliest Android Galaxy phones: “They were annoying because they ripped off our technology. They took the innovations we had created and created a poor copy of it. And just put a bigger screen around it.”

What was the FBI's main argument about accessing Farook's iPhone? ›

The FBI had argued that only Apple could help it unlock Farook's iPhone. That was important because the law the FBI invoked, called the All Writs Act, requires the FBI to make reasonable self-help efforts before forcing a company like Apple to help its investigation.

Did Apple open the phone for the FBI? ›

On March 21, 2016, the government canceled a hearing scheduled for the following day on the legal case in California. Soon after, the FBI unlocked the phone. Nothing of real significance — no links to foreign terrorists — was found. The government subsequently abandoned its legal bid to force Apple to unlock the phone.

Does Apple work with the feds? ›

Has Apple unlocked iPhones for law enforcement in the past? No. We regularly receive law enforcement requests for information about our customers and their Apple devices. In fact, we have a dedicated team that responds to these requests 24/7.

Can FBI read your iMessage? ›

Subpoena: Can render basic subscriber information. 18 USC §2703(d): Can render 25 days of iMessage lookups and from a target number.

Can police access a locked iPhone? ›

Short answer: If your phone is protected by a passcode or biometric unlocking features, there's a chance police can't gain access to your personal data. But that's not guaranteed. Long answer: In addition to data hosted by a third party, there's a lot of information that can only be gained from access to your phone.

Can the US government spy on your phone? ›

Governments may sometimes legally monitor mobile phone communications - a procedure known as lawful interception. In the United States, the government pays phone companies directly to record and collect cellular communications from specified individuals.

Can police see iPhone messages? ›

In general, law enforcement does not have access to end-to-end encrypted (E22E) messages sent via these services. However, they do have a workaround: messages that are backed up to cloud storage services may have an encryption key attached and may be fair game for agents with a warrant.

Can police access Apple id? ›

Unless they have the passcode or a suspect unlocks the device for them, there is nothing at all that either law enforcement or Apple can retrieve from the device.

Videos

1. Judge tells Apple: unlock shooter's iPhone
(CNN)
2. Apple Vs FBI Case | Business Ethics | Privacy Vs Security | Encryption Dispute | Terrorist Attack
(5 Minutes Learning)
3. History of Apple CEO Tim Cook
(Apple Explained)
4. Apple vs FBI - Who's right?
(Jon Rettinger)
5. Apple vs. the FBI Explained | Mashable
(Mashable)
6. Apple CEO defends fight against FBI
(CBS News)
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