Apple Vs. The FBI: What You Need to Know

The Takeaway

Click on the audio player above to hear this interview.

A California judge has ordered Apple to unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters, Syed Rizwan Farook, but Apple is opposing the FBI request and the court order.

The federal order, issued by Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym  on Wendesday, directs Apple to "build special software that would essentially act as a skeleton key capable of unlocking the phone," our partner The New York Times reports.

Though the company has helped the FBI before, CEO Tim Cook issued a lengthy statement explaining why Apple is digging in its heels. It reads in part: 

"We have great respect for the professionals at the FBI, and we believe their intentions are good. Up to this point, we have done everything that is both within our power and within the law to help them. But now the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone.

"Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession."

Cook later added:

"The implications of the government’s demands are chilling. If the government can use the [1789] All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone’s device to capture their data. The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand 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."

According to Katie Brenner, a technology reporter for our partner The New York Times, this fight may become the signature case on privacy and security in the age of encryption.