Apple CEO Tim Cook has taken the debate of whether or not the government should be allowed to access the personal data held within iPhones to the media. In a recent interview, Cook tried to win over public opinion on the matter, making bold statements about the government’s desire to break the iPhone. Most notably, the CEO compared the software that the FBI wants to use on the phones to cancer.
In his statements, Cook argued that since computer code is speech. If it were to be required that Apple manufacture iPhones with an operating system that can be easily broken by the FBI, the company’s freedom of speech would be restricted. Cook also said that such an order would violate the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment by depriving Apple of its liberty.
Cook said in the interview, “What is at stake here is, can the government compel Apple to write software that we believe would make hundreds of millions of customers vulnerable around the world, including the US?”
The Apple CEO went on to say that he would never willingly expose the private information of millions of his customers.
“If we knew a way to get the information on the phone that we haven’t already given and that would not expose hundreds of millions of other people, we would obviously do it. But again this is not about one phone, this is about the future,” he added.
Needless to say, Apple is trying to drum up public support on the matter. With the country widely split on issues of encryption, it could easily come down to public opinion on how the government acts in this case. Politicians will not support an issue unless they believe they have the support from the public. If Apple can get the public on their side, politicians will support them as well.
A recent poll showed that 46% of Americans believe that the government should be allowed to access the information stored on phones in order to prevent acts of terrorism. Meanwhile, 42% disagreed with this statement, and 12% were unsure or refused to answer.
In the end, it’s a good strategy by Apple to take the issue to the public. The FBI is notoriously weak in its public relations department, so Apple should easily have the edge on such a stage. Expect the issue to continue to be hotly discussed in the coming weeks.