Apple’s Tim Cook explains that FBI request is like ‘software cancer’ in interview

Adam Westlake - Feb 25, 2016
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Apple’s Tim Cook explains that FBI request is like ‘software cancer’ in interview

Apple CEO Time Cook appeared on ABC World News Tonight last night, and in a 30-minute interview with David Muir, he goes into detail about Apple’s stance encryption, as well as why they will not give in to the FBI’s demands for backdoor access into an iPhone that belonged to a terrorist. The television broadcast of the program only included a small portion of the interview, but ABC has now posted it online in full, and it’s a must-watch for anyone closely following the Apple/FBI topic, as well as the larger issue of privacy and the government.

A portion of the interview is Cook reiterating much of what he said in his open letter to the public just after the news of the FBI’s demand to build a backdoor into iOS came to light. But he moves on to explain the overall significance of the situation, and that if Apple does give in to the request, it will set a dangerous precedent that will “be bad for America,” in that private user data will become victim to the threat of something that “might be there.”

“The protection of people’s data is incredibly important and so the tradeoff here is that we know that doing this could expose people to incredible vulnerabilities. This is not something that we would create. This would be bad for America and it would also set a precedent that I believe many people in America would be offended by. And so when you think about those which are knowns, compared to something that might be there, I believe we are making the right choice.

Some things are hard, somethings are right. Some things are both. This is one of those things.”

The strongest message from Cook, however, is his statement that creating the tool the FBI wants, something that would allow access to the secured data on anyone’s phone, would be “the software equivalent of cancer.”

“The only way we know would be to write a piece of software that we view as sort of the software equivalent of cancer. We think it’s bad news to write. We would never write it. We have never written it.”

Another important point that Cook brings up is the slippery slope the FBI’s argument for gaining access to a device rests on. Right now they’re saying they only want access to this one iPhone (which, as it turns out, isn’t exactly true), but what about the next time?

“f a court can ask us to write this piece of software, think about what else they could ask us to write. Maybe it’s an operating system for surveillance. Maybe it’s the ability for law enforcement to turn on the camera. I mean, I don’t know where this stops. But I do know this is not what should be happening in this country. This is not what should be happening in America. If there should be a law that compels us to do it, it should be passed out in the open, and the people of America should get a voice in that. The right place for that debate to occur is in Congress.”

We’ve shared a handful of choice excerpts and quotes here, along with a small portion of the interview embedded below, but the full thing is important to watch, so head over to ABC’s site to check it out.

Cook: What they want is, they want us to develop a new operating system that takes out the security precautions. Including the precaution that, after 10 tries, if somebody has set “erase all data after 10,” they want that to not be in there. And then they want an ability to go through a number of passwords at the speed of a modern computer.

Muir: A computer would do that to figure out the code…

Cook: A computer would do that. We believe that is a very dangerous operating system.

Muir: Because once people know that exists, you say, the cat is out of the bag.

Cook: If one of the bad guys knew that that existed, think about the target that is. Everybody would want that system. Because you could get in… It has the potential to get into any iPhone. This is not something that should be created.

“No one would want a master key built that would turn hundreds of millions of locks. Even if that key were in the possession of the person that you trust the most, that key could be stolen. That is what this is about.”

SOURCE ABC News


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