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Why Apple Is Saying No to the FBI

Apple claims the government wants to put your privacy at risk.
(Photo: Wesley Lelieveld/Flickr)

(Photo: Wesley Lelieveld/Flickr)

Who do you trust with your phone's pin number? Your significant other? Your best friend? The federal government?

iPhone security measures are designed to keep strangers out—after a pin is entered incorrectly 10 times, the phone automatically erases all of its content. Now, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking for a way to bypass that rule, with the help of a court order that requires Apple to help break into a phone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters.

But Apple disagrees with the ruling. In a letter to its customers, Apple explained that it has cooperated with the government, complying with search warrants and providing the FBI with technical assistance. What the FBI wants now is a new operating system that doesn't lock a user out after 10 incorrect passcodes. Apple warns this will set a dangerous precedent, since it not only makes iPhone users more vulnerable to hackers, it also allows the government access to personal information.

We store so much of our lives on our phones, it makes sense to question whether we trust the government with that information. A 2015 Reuters poll indicates as much:

In his letter, Apple CEO Tim Cook writes:

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.

Apple claims this software update would make its consumers much more vulnerable to hacking and information theft. To be sure, with a brute force approach, a hacker could break into a iPhone in less than 18 minutes.