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Tim Cook says FBI wants Apple to create the ‘software equivalent of cancer’

Published Feb 24th, 2016 7:45PM EST
Apple Vs FBI
Image: Mactrast

Apple is pulling out all the PR stops as part of its broader campaign to help explain why it adamantly refuses to help the FBI unlock an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters. Most recently, Apple CEO Tim Cook appeared on ABC’s World News Tonight where Cook sat down and explained Apple’s position to David Muir.

“I think safety of the public is incredibly important. Safety of our kids, safety of our families is very important,” Cook explained. “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.”

DON’T MISS: 25 hidden iPhone features that are really, truly hidden

Cook also made a point of noting that Apple has already handed over to the FBI all the information it has about the phone in question.

“Apple has cooperated with the FBI fully in this case,” Cook said. “They came to us and asked us for all the information we had on this phone, and we gave them everything we had.”

As you may already know, Apple gave the FBI iCloud backups from the shooter’s iPhone 5c and also sent over a pair of iOS specialists to help the FBI try and access data housed on the device. Where Apple draws the line, however, is writing new software specifically designed to skirt around the iPhone’s built-in security.

“This case is not about one phone, this case is about future,” Cook passionately articulated.  “What is at stake here is  ‘can the government compel Apple to write software that we believe would make hundreds of millions of customers vulnerable around the world, including the U.S.?'”

“The only way we [can do what the FBI wants] would be to write a piece of software that we view as sort of the software equivalent of cancer,” Cook added for emphasis. “We think it’s bad news to write, we would never write it, we have never written it. And that is what is at stake here.”

If there was a central theme to Cook’s position, it’s that if Apple acquiesced to the FBI’s demands, it would quite literally put the private information of hundreds of millions of iOS users across the globe at risk.

“If we knew a way to do this without exposing hundreds of millions of other people’s issues we would obviously do it,” Cook added. “We need to stand tall and stand tall on principle. There’s probably more information about you on your phone than there is in your house… they’re also loaded with the location of our kids in many cases, and so it’s not just about privacy but it’s also about public safety.”

“This is not a position we like to be in,” Cook continued. “This is a very uncomfortable position. To oppose your government on something doesn’t feel good. And to oppose it on something where we are advocating for civil liberties which they are supposed to protect, I find it incredibly ironic.”

Later in the interview, Cook said that he plans to talk to President Obama about the ongoing issue soon, though he didn’t clarify when he thought such a conversation might take place.

Another interesting tidbit relayed by Cook is that Apple found out about the FBI’s filing from the press.

An excerpt of Cook’s interview can be seen below.

Yoni Heisler Contributor

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 15 years. A life long Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW. When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.