In a letter to customers Tuesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke out against a federal court order mandating the company break into the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters, calling the order "an overreach by the U.S. government."
Earlier Tuesday, a federal judge ordered Apple to provide "reasonable technical assistance" to law enforcement agents trying to get data off a phone that belonged to Syed Farook. He and his wife, Tashfeed Malik, killed 14 people in an attack in San Bernardino on Dec. 2. Both were killed in a shootout with police.
"We have made a solemn commitment to the victims and their families that we will leave no stone unturned as we gather as much information and evidence as possible," U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker said in a statement. "These victims and families deserve nothing less. The application filed today in federal court is another step – a potentially important step – in the process of learning everything we possibly can about the attack in San Bernardino."
However, Cook argued the order's huge risks didn't justify the means.
"The government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers — including tens of millions of American citizens — from sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals," he said. "We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand."
According to Cook, the government's objective would require Apple to create a backdoor into its devices which currently doesn't exist, leaving thousands at risk.
"The government suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone," he said. "But that's simply not true.
"Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices. In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks — from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable."
The company will have five days to file an appeal of the federal court's order.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.