In an interview with ABC World News Wednesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook defended the company’s refusal to write a backdoor hack into San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook’s iPhone, calling this a precedent-setting moment.
“This case is not about my phone,” Cook said. “This case is about the future. 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 U.S..”
Cook said he was ready to take the case to the Supreme Court: “We would be prepared to take this issue all the way,” Cook said.
Farook was one of two shooters who killed 14 people and seriously wounded 22 more in a December 2, 2015 spree across San Bernardino. The FBI has demanded Apple help crack the password-protected phone to help the criminal investigation.
“It’s clear that it would be a precedent,” Cook said. “New York law enforcement is already talking about having 175 phones there. Other counties across the United States are talking about phones they have. And so it is a slippery slope. I don’t fear it. It is one.”
The standoff has divided the tech community, with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg supporting Apple’s decision and Microsoft founder Bill Gates arguing in favor of unlocking the phone. Of course even Donald Trump weighed in, calling for an Apple boycott which may or may not require the Republican frontrunner and tangerine dream to surrender his own iPhone.
Cook said that even if his company capitulated, he had no idea how long it would take to write software that would be capable of what the FBI were asking. “It’s not like we have information on this phone in the next office,” he said. He also managed a dig at the investigator’s basic misunderstanding of the tech, calling the FBI’s directive to county investigators to reset the phone’s cloud password (thereby preventing it from updating to the cloud) a “crucial missed opportunity.”
“You probably have more information about you on your phone than there is in your house,” Cook said, adding “it’s not just about privacy, it’s about public safety.”
As the fight between Cook and law enforcement continues, Apple is looking for other ways to protect its customers. The company is reportedly frantically working on security upgrades that would put user data beyond Apple’s reach, and turn the FBI’s legal maneuvering into a wasted effort.
Watch the full ABC News interview with Tim Cook.