The ongoing scuttle between Apple and the FBI surrounding the decryption of the San Bernardino shooter's phone has been at the center of American mindshare recently. Apple CEO Tim Cook sat down with TIME to discuss the way things have transpired, the help that Apple has provided, and why the company is standing its ground on this. The iPhone in question was recovered after the incident, and later identified as the shooter's work phone. It is an iPhone 5c running iOS 9, protected by a four-digit PIN passcode.
The FBI reached out to Apple for assistance on the matter, but that was after they had already worked with the local municipality to reset the iCloud password on the phone. Apple offered some friendly advice, which the FBI tried with no success. From TIME:
It emerged that resetting the iCloud password had been a serious tactical error: they could've gotten the phone to make a fresh backup of itself automatically, but once you change the iCloud password, it won't back itself up without the passcode.
This is when things took a turn for the worst. The FBI made a further request for Apple to write a new version of iOS 9 that would eliminate the 10-try restriction so they could brute force their way into the phone. Cook says that when the company received the request there was lots of internal discussion about the topic, with many Apple employees involved. It wasn't just Cook who came to the ultimate decision of resisting assistance.
Once Apple replied with a no, the FBI then escalated things and took it to the public. The FBI wanted to paint a picture that Apple wasn't assisting their needs in a domestic terrorism case, but then multiple companies and individuals began filing amicus briefs in support of Apple. Cook stood his grounds throughout the following proceedings, and even told TIME:
In addition, we felt like it trampled on civil liberties, not only for our customers but in the broader sense. It felt like different points in history, almost, in the U.S., where the government overreached for whatever reason. And we were dead set in the path of it. So we knew it was wrong. It was wrong on so many levels. And so when we saw the suit, when the suit actually hit, it was then more about, how do we communicate to the Apple community why we're doing what we're doing?
When asked if he felt that the FBI intentionally picked this case, with the emotional levels of domestic terrorism, to make its point, Cook replied:
I think they picked a case to pursue that they felt they had the strongest possibility of winning. Is there something on the phone? I don't know. I don't think anybody really knows.
The thing that some people point out, or have pointed out to me, is that the other phones are smashed. One of the family members of the victim came out last week and said everybody knew these phones were monitored. In fact he said they had the GPS app on the phone that allowed the county to track the employees because the employees were field employees. And I'm sure they did it from a safety point of view.
Be sure to check out the full interview with Tim Cook at TIME for all of the other great answers that were given to the difficult questions that were asked.