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Apple engineers would rather quit than develop an iPhone backdoor for the FBI

iPhone Hacking Apple Engineers

Apple’s legal wrangling with the FBI over mobile encryption continues to play out in dramatic fashion. On one hand, we have the DOJ going so far as to boldly claim that they might seek to compel Apple to hand over its iOS source code along with the electronic signature needed to run a modified version of iOS on an iPhone. And on the other hand, we have Tim Cook articulating that the FBI wants Apple to effectively create the “software equivalent of cancer.”

With this particular backdrop, one can see why Tim Cook feels that he’s been living in a “bad dream” ever since the issue of encryption exploded onto the scene and took over the news cycle. Expounding on the matter in a recent TIME interview, Cook said the FBI’s approach to the issue has been unprofessional and that he was “deeply offended” by the FBI “lying” about Apple’s intentions.

And yet, in the midst of all this, one group we haven’t heard much of anything from are Apple engineers, the very people who, if the FBI has its way, would be responsible for creating an entirely new version of iOS that one might reasonably categorize as a backdoor.

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Only problem is, many of those engineers would rather quit Apple altogether than create code that runs contrary to their own moral compass.

The New York Times reports:

Apple employees are already discussing what they will do if ordered to help law enforcement authorities. Some say they may balk at the work, while others may even quit their high-paying jobs rather than undermine the security of the software they have already created, according to more than a half-dozen current and former Apple employees.

As for which engineers would be tasked with the job should the FBI prevail, the team would naturally be composed of some of Apple’s top software engineers.

They include an engineer who developed software for the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV. That engineer previously worked at an aerospace company. Another is a senior quality-assurance engineer who is described as an expert “bug catcher” with experience testing Apple products all the way back to the iPod. A third likely employee specializes in security architecture for the operating systems powering the iPhone, Mac and Apple TV.

Apple and the FBI are slated to square off next week in court. As it stands now, there’s no indication that either side is prepared to stand down, a dynamic which will only keep the dramatics alive and well.

A life long Mac user and Apple enthusiast, Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 6 years. His writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and most recently, TUAW. When not writing about and analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions, the most recent examples being The Walking Dead and Broad City.