The FBI is trying to force Apple to create a weaker version of iOS software for iPhone that would weaken encryption and the device’s fundamental security. Tim Cook has issued this public letter:

The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers. We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand.

Smartphones, led by iPhone, have become an essential part of our lives. People use them to store an incredible amount of personal information, from our private conversations to our photos, our music, our notes, our calendars and contacts, our financial information and health data, even where we have been and where we are going.

All that information needs to be protected from hackers and criminals who want to access it, steal it, and use it without our knowledge or permission. Customers expect Apple and other technology companies to do everything in our power to protect their personal information, and at Apple we are deeply committed to safeguarding their data. …

The implications of the government’s demands are chilling. If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone’s device to capture their data. The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge. …

While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products. And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.

I thank God that Apple is willing to be the voice for encryption. It’s necessary to guarantee the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment protection of the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures…” The point that Cook is making is that, like any new weapon, once Apple is forced to create the software that the FBI wants, it exists and threatens the security of every device.

Snowden revelations has shown that the British GCHQ routinely spied on their citizens, including remotely activating citizen’s cameras and microphones to monitor them in their home. That’s the sort of future Tim Cook is warning against.

I excerpted Justice Scalia’s words the other day: “Nobody—remember this… ever came forward with a proposal that read, ‘Now, let’s create a really oppressive and evil society.’”

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