The FBI has ordered Apple to provide it backdoor access to the iPhone operating system, writes CEO Tim Cook in a letter to customers published Wednesday. Apple opposes the order, he says, because it would be impossible to do so without putting millions of customers' privacy at risk.
Smartphones, led by iPhone, have become an essential part of our lives. People use them to store an incredible amount of personal information, from our private conversations to our photos, our music, our notes, our calendars and contacts, our financial information and health data, even where we have been and where we are going.
All that information needs to be protected from hackers and criminals who want to access it, steal it, and use it without our knowledge or permission. Customers expect Apple and other technology companies to do everything in our power to protect their personal information, and at Apple we are deeply committed to safeguarding their data.
The circumstances of the order center on the investigation into last year's San Bernardino terror shootings in California: "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."
Once a backdoor exists, no-one can control who copies the keys, picks the locks, or kicks it down with brute force:
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Rather than asking for legislative action through Congress, the FBI is proposing an unprecedented use of the All Writs Act of 1789 to justify an expansion of its authority.