Phil Schiller iPhone 11 keynoteSource: Apple

What you need to know

  • President Donald Trump has waded into the battle between Apple and the FBI over phone unlocking.
  • In a Tweet, the President said that Apple refused to unlock phones used by criminals despite the help it had received on trade.
  • He said that Apple would have to "step up to the plate and help our great Country".

President Donald Trump has hit out at Apple's refusal to unlock the phones of criminals, suggesting that Apple should "step up to the plate" and help.

In a Tweet late on Tuesday, the President said:

We are helping Apple all of the time on TRADE and so many other issues, and yet they refuse to unlock phones used by killers, drug dealers and other violent criminal elements. They will have to step up to the plate and help our great Country, NOW! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.

The President is, of course, commenting on the recent dispute between Apple and the FBI over two iPhones used by Pensacola Naval Base Shooter Mohammed Alshamrani. The FBI requested Apple's aid in unlocking two iPhones, it has court permission to search the devices, however, they are password protected. Yesterday, January 14, Apple hit back at FBI claims it was being unhelpful in the investigation, arguing that it had complied swiftly with several FBI requests for data, but reiterating its stance that it would not create a backdoor to iOS security for law enforcement.

President Trump's tweet seems to suggest that Apple is somehow obligated to fulfill the FBI's request and unlock these iPhones because of the assistance it has received in trade. The President is no doubt referring to several requests for tariff exemptions from China granted to Apple by the administration, and efforts to further trade talks with China to avoid further rounds of tariffs.

Apple's strong stance on the issue has persisted since the San Bernardino case, which has many similarities to this one. However, reports are suggesting that given the older nature of the Pensacola shooter's iPhones (a 5 and a 7), the FBI is capable of accessing these iPhones without Apple's help. It is also being reported that Apple is preparing behind the scenes for a legal battle over encryption.

With President Trump taking notice, it is unlikely that this saga will come to a resolution any time soon.