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Apple’s Eddy Cue: FBI could force Apple to secretly activate a user’s iPhone’s camera

Apple Vs FBI

With Apple and the FBI still stuck in something of a stalemate regarding the locked iPhone of one of the San Bernardino terrorists, the company this week continued its PR offensive as Apple executive Eddy Cue sat down for a Spanish language interview with Univision.

Echoing an argument Apple made in its legal response to the FBI’s request for assistance, Cue articulated that if the FBI can successfully force Apple to write what essentially amounts to a new version of iOS, what’s to stop the FBI or any other federal agency from forcing Apple to write more sinister software in the future.

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“When they can get us to create a new system to do new things, where will it stop?” Cue said. “For example, one day [the FBI] may want us to open your phone’s camera or microphone. Those are things we can’t do now. But if they can force us to do that, I think that’s very bad.”

Cue also emphasized that one of the broader issues involved in the debate over mobile encryption is that everyday citizens should have the right to keep their data and sensitive information as secure as possible. To this point, Cue said that Apple wants to ensure that the security mechanisms on its products remain a step ahead of terrorists and cyber-criminals who are increasingly becoming more sophisticated.

Cue also made a point of mentioning that Apple has not only helped out the FBI in this case, but in many other cases as well. But from Apple’s vantage point, there’s a distinct difference between handing over information it already has in its possession (i.e iCloud backups) and creating an entirely new piece of software expressly designed to circumvent built-in iOS security measures.

“First, we’ve helped the police and the FBI in this case and many more cases as well,” Cue said. “We give them all the data we have. In this case, the problem is that they want us to give the one thing that we do not have…”

“What they want is for us to provide a key to the backdoor of your house, but we do not have the key. Since we don’t have the key, they want us to change the lock. When we change the latchkey, it changes for everyone. And we then have a key capable of opening all phones. And that key, once it exists, exists not only for us. Terrorists, criminals, pirates, they too will be able to find and use that key to open all phones.”

To this point, Cue added that government entities in the past have lost 5 million fingerprints, hundreds of millions of credit card numbers, and various types of sensitive financial information.

“This problem is happening more and more frequently,” Cue said. “And the only way we can protect ourselves is to make the phone much safer.”

In a statement that essentially encapsulates Apple’s position, Cue said that Apple wants to do everything in its power to help the FBI, but not if doing so would concurrently help criminals and terrorists as well.

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.