After the Dec. 2 terror attacks in San Bernardino, California, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation took charge of piecing together the cause and connections of the crime. According to ABC News, the FBI soon found what they consider a critical piece of evidence: perpetrator Syed Farook’s iPhone 5c. FBI director James Comey stated that the phone, seized by the FBI in a legal search, was locked. The FBI has requested access to the phone from Apple, noting that crucial evidence related to the attack or connections of the attackers could be located on the phone.
Law requires Apple to assist in the access of the phone, and simply accessing the iCloud may not present all details desired by the FBI, ABC News reports. The FBI wishes to avoid failure in accessing the phone, as enough failed attempts will automatically eliminate any data on the iPhone. Comey says that this is exactly what he wants: for Apple to “call off their vicious guard dogs,” and “let us pick the lock.”
Joining Comey in calling for Apple’s compliance are families of the victims of the attacks. According to The Los Angeles Times, several relatives have written letters to judges asking them to order Apple to unlock the phone. The families cite that, in their opinion, privacy should not override security, and that information on the phone could lead to information that could save future lives and expose illegal activities and perpetrators before they are put into action.
Not all are in agreement with the FBI and the families, however. The American Civil Liberties Union issued a statement that this case is not just about a single phone, but about the intrusion of the government onto the rights of companies and the private citizens, The Los Angeles Times reports. Other tech companies, such as Amazon and AT&T, also voiced their support for Apple. Several different magistrates have voiced opinions on the matter, often in conflict with each other.
Apple CEO Tim Cook explained his side of this issue recently. According to CNN, Cook stated that for Apple to do what the FBI wants, Apple would need to create software that does not exist and would jeopardize the security they have put in place to protect their millions of customers. Apple stated that its decision to challenge the FBI was, therefore, with “deepest respect for American democracy and love of our country.” Apple did not choose to oppose the requests lightly, Cook says, as they have no tolerance for such actions as occurred in San Bernardino.
Cook stated that it is precisely for security reasons that they resist. Though the FBI states that the technology would only be used in this case, Cook says that this is impossible, as once the technology exists it can be used indefinitely and it would require his company to knowingly and willingly harm the security and privacy of their customers.
Editor’s Note: Information from the ABC News, The Los Angeles Times and CNN was used in this report.