Tim Cook: An iPhone Master Key Would Be the 'Software Equivalent of Cancer'

Illustration for article titled Tim Cook: An iPhone Master Key Would Be the 'Software Equivalent of Cancer'

Apple CEO Tim Cook told ABC World News Tonight’s David Muir that he remains opposed to giving the FBI a skeleton key that would allow it to break into one of the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhones.


Tonight in an exclusive with ABC, Cook said it’s “a very uncomfortable position to oppose your government at something,” particularly “civil liberties, which they are supposed to protect—it is incredibly ironic.”

Apple’s currently embroiled in a fight with the FBI—and you should care, because the case’s outcome affects anyone who uses a smartphone.

The FBI is essentially asking Apple to fork over technical secrets that will allow feds to hack into San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone 5C in a criminal investigation against the terrorist. He was shot in a confrontation with police after killing 14 and injuring 22, alongside his wife. Apple’s refused to fully cooperate, since creating a master key that opens one iPhone suddenly creates a massive security risk to all iPhones.

Cook told Muir that such a master key would be “the software equivalent of cancer.” He also said that while he hasn’t talked to President Obama about the “incredibly complex issue” yet, he will.

Muir asked Cook why Apple hadn’t teamed up with the FBI sooner—to work together on security software from the get-go, which would’ve avoided this whole situation. Cook said he can’t talk about the tactics of the FBI, and that what Apple needs to do at this point is “stand tall.” He said that there’s more information about ourselves on our phones than in our houses: intimate conversations, financial data, the locations of our kids, and more.


Cook said the case with FBI is “not just about privacy—but about public safety.”

Companies like Google agree with Apple putting its foot down with the FBI. We’ll see how it all unfolds—but depending on the outcome, it could be setting a very dangerous privacy precedent indeed.


Correction, 7:02 p.m.: This article originally stated Bill Gates sided with Apple. He actually stated that he views the situation as more complex than that.

Contact the author at bryan@gizmodo.com.



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AS somebody who doesn’t know much about tech other than as a consumer of it let me give what I think is a perspective a lot of people have. Apple is right to not want to try and circumvent their developed security measures to insure privacy and government overreach. However, and this is the somewhat sketchy Joe Schmoe feeling is that there has to be some way to do this without losing that security. It is probably a naive view, I admit. Since I am fairly ignorant of the technical aspects I tend to defer to folks like Tim Cook and Bill Gates and others, but that doesn’t make it FEEL like this shouldn’t be so hard.