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Apple versus the FBI – Apple fires opening shots

Anthony Caruana | March 2, 2016
Over the next few hours, Apple will be appearing in front of the House Judiciary Committee of the US Congress to discuss its views on the security of personal data on personal devices. The hearing is titled 'Balancing Americans' Security and Privacy'.

Over the next few hours, Apple will be appearing in front of the House Judiciary Committee of the US Congress to discuss its views on the security of personal data on personal devices. The hearing is titled 'Balancing Americans' Security and Privacy'.

Apple's general counsel, Bruce Sewell, has made his opening remarks available prior to the hearing.

Among Sewell's comments are some strong statements countering the views of law enforcement. For example:

The FBI is asking Apple to weaken the security of our products. Hackers and cyber criminals could use this to wreak havoc on our privacy and personal safety. It would set a dangerous precedent for government intrusion on the privacy and safety of its citizens.

Should the FBI be allowed to stop Apple, or any company, from offering the American people the safest and most secure product it can make?

Should the FBI have the right to compel a company to produce a product it doesn't already make, to the FBI's exact specifications and for the FBI's use?

Here's the full text of Apple's statement.

Thank you, Mr Chairman. It's my pleasure to appear before you and the Committee today on behalf of Apple. We appreciate your invitation and the opportunity to be part of the discussion on this important issue which centres on the civil liberties at the foundation of our country.

I want to repeat something we have said since the beginning - that the victims and families of the San Bernardino attacks have our deepest sympathies and we strongly agree that justice should be served. Apple has no sympathy for terrorists.

We have the utmost respect for law enforcement and share their goal of creating a safer world. We have a team of dedicated professionals that are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year to assist law enforcement. When the FBI came to us in the immediate aftermath of the San Bernardino attacks, we gave all the information we had related to their investigation. And we went beyond that by making Apple engineers available to advise them on a number of additional investigative options.

But we now find ourselves at the centre of an extraordinary circumstance. The FBI has asked a Court to order us to give them something we don't have. To create an operating system that does not exist - because it would be too dangerous. They are asking for a backdoor into the iPhone - specifically to build a software tool that can break the encryption system which protects personal information on every iPhone.

As we have told them - and as we have told the American public - building that software tool would not affect just one iPhone. It would weaken the security for all of them. In fact, just last week Director Comey agreed that the FBI would likely use this precedent in other cases involving other phones. District Attorney Vance has also said he would absolutely plan to use this on over 175 phones. We can all agree this is not about access to just one iPhone.

 

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