Tim Cook emails employees: 'People trust Apple to keep their data safe'

Following up on his public letter to customers, Apple CEO Tim Cook has emailed employees to thank them for their support, and to share some of the support the company has received, in its ongoing dispute with the Federal Bureau of Investigations over creating a tool to more easily and quickly brute-force iPhone and iPad passcodes.

Tim Cook's letter to employees read as follows:

Email to Apple employees from Apple CEO Tim Cook

Subject: Thank you for your support


Last week we asked our customers and people across the United States to join a public dialogue about important issues facing our country. In the week since that letter, I've been grateful for the thought and discussion we've heard and read, as well as the outpouring of support we've received from across America.

As individuals and as a company, we have no tolerance or sympathy for terrorists. When they commit unspeakable acts like the tragic attacks in San Bernardino, we work to help the authorities pursue justice for the victims. And that's exactly what we did.

This case is about much more than a single phone or a single investigation, so when we received the government's order we knew we had to speak out. At stake is the data security of hundreds of millions of law-abiding people, and setting a dangerous precedent that threatens everyone's civil liberties.

As you know, we use encryption to protect our customers — whose data is under siege. We work hard to improve security with every software release because the threats are becoming more frequent and more sophisticated all the time.

Some advocates of the government's order want us to roll back data protections to iOS 7, which we released in September 2013. Starting with iOS 8, we began encrypting data in a way that not even the iPhone itself can read without the user's passcode, so if it is lost or stolen, our personal data, conversations, financial and health information are far more secure. We all know that turning back the clock on that progress would be a terrible idea.

Our fellow citizens know it, too. Over the past week I've received messages from thousands of people in all 50 states, and the overwhelming majority are writing to voice their strong support. One email was from a 13-year-old app developer who thanked us for standing up for "all future generations." And a 30-year Army veteran told me, "Like my freedom, I will always consider my privacy as a treasure."

I've also heard from many of you and I am especially grateful for your support.

Many people still have questions about the case and we want to make sure they understand the facts. So today we are posting answers on apple.com/customer-letter/answers/ to provide more information on this issue. I encourage you to read them.

Apple is a uniquely American company. It does not feel right to be on the opposite side of the government in a case centering on the freedoms and liberties that government is meant to protect.

Our country has always been strongest when we come together. We feel the best way forward would be for the government to withdraw its demands under the All Writs Act and, as some in Congress have proposed, form a commission or other panel of experts on intelligence, technology and civil liberties to discuss the implications for law enforcement, national security, privacy and personal freedoms. Apple would gladly participate in such an effort.

People trust Apple to keep their data safe, and that data is an increasingly important part of everyone's lives. You do an incredible job protecting them with the features we design into our products. Thank you.


Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • Ok I have a question. Do we as citizens of the US have a right to hide things from the government if they have a search warrant? If the fbi came to your door with a warrant for search and took your safe are they allowed to open it? Yes. Why are our phones different? I really don't understand. Second question, with this new system the government wants do they need physical access to the phone? If so, why are people so afraid about their "privacy"? I feel like privacy has become a sort of buzz word. People using Facebook standing with Apple on "privacy", the same person with personal info and geotagging on a public open community. Or this weeks guest on imore show who likes that the Amazon Echo is always listening, yet is praising Apple for fighting for his privacy. More so, people praising Apple will undoubtably use grocery store discount cards, that have your personal info alon with a history of everything you buy in the store. Yet, are afraid of what someone with a warrant can find on your phone.. Os it more about this Os getting into the hands of China? And their phones all being compromised?
  • It's your point of view and I can understand where you're coming from. I think you are overlooking where everyone else is coming from. The key will be misused. We live in a world where cops have been arrested for rape. Where some law enforcement officers have been promoted after falsifying evidence. We live in a world where we cannot trust law enforcement not abuse a simple traffic stops. Now you want to give them a tool to view everything on every phone. It will be used and the easier it is the more it will be abused. How long till the first officer brings in his kids or his ex wife's phone? Secondly it won't help anyone fight terrorism. The people who did this destroyed their personal phones and their personal computers. So what makes anyone think they had anything useful on their work phone? Also it's a **** of a lot easier to get a cheaper burner phone from Walmart and toss it when done then to go to Verizon and get a contract for a new phone. Third point foreign governments have pressured Apple for this same tool in the past. Apple was able to fight those request in the past. If this legal precedent goes through they won't be able to deny those request. You really think the Chinese government is going to restrict usage to phones in their country? That once this tool is created it won't be "improved" until it no longer physically requires access to your phone? Fourth and last point. The only card I have not gotten a fraud alert from is the one on my Apple Pay. There are things on my phone which are simply not meant for mass consumption. . Once this key is created it will get into criminal hands and they will have access to everything on your phone, from credit card numbers, to birthdays, to SS numbers to this pics your wife sent to pick you up on a down day. This is literally Pandora's box but without hope waiting in the bottom.
  • The FBI doesn't WANT THE KEY. Let that soak in for an hour or two. They only want a COPY OF THE INFO ON THE PHONE. *Rene's Head Explodes*
  • My front door can be miss-used too but I can only do so much to change that. It's all a marketing stunt.
  • Read up on Chinese software laws. They already have what they need. To your first set of concerns, it must be noted that a functioning system of checks and balances is essential to an governing system, judicial, executive, or otherwise. This would equally have to be applied to this situation. It is also important to note that it requires physical access to the device. Criminals aren't always the brightest people. It takes a moment of thought to maintain a system of burner phones. What the FBI is trying to prevent is people who need secrecy for illegal reasons from having either having a "burner phone" that they can hide massive amounts of data in, as well as incredibly easy access to encrypted communications. It lowers the bar, so to speak, for criminal actions. While synchronized burner phone swap outs (to prevent call history overlap) are still vastly superior to a single set of encrypted devices, it makes to the job easier for those who are less qualified to evade law enforcement. As for your cards, you have made a logical error. Tokenized card details are a big plus for protecting your card. However, Android Pay/Google Wallet also use tokenized card details. Apple Pay can only prevent data stolen through Apple Pay, but not data stolen outside of it. More realistically, it is your fault for not taking better care of your cards.
  • This is for justareader. I'll take you point for point. You need to read the Chinese laws and realize what they don't have. They don't have what's directly on your phone unless you downloaded it. They also don't have access to iPhone messer as as they use point to point encryption. The garbled text is there for any to see but until it hits your device, just garble. If they had everything they'd need they would not have been pushing so hard for more. There are multitudes of ways to encrypt data not using your phone for the heavy lifting. Isis is a new generation of terrorist. These people are tech savvy. They are not going to get busted because they sent out a tweet from their iPhone. Look up their guide to using tech guide. When you can explain and guarantee that this "one time usage" will never be used again or against us we can talk. Third my cards were stolen in two separate data breaches. In other words I used my card at Home Depot and somebody went through their security system to snag my card info. Wow, who would have thought a criminal could gain access to such a secure system! Not! All the FBI would be doing is weakening my personal security systems, making me more vulnerable. Last point is the former head of the CIA and NSA is against the back door in general. He has at least one of the same reasons that I have.
  • Ok with this request does it not require physical access of the phone to enter? So why are people afraid of feeling so "vulnerable"?
  • Part of Chinese policy entails not letting in a system they do not have access to. See, for example, how they treat foreign banking software (arguably, among the most important systems to be secure). Pay very close attention to more than the technicalities. As for the cards, that is a fair response, and I cede the point. It is important to remember the difference between hardware and software encryption. With a hard drive on a computer, it can be brute forced without fear of wiping the data. Having access to the guide the ISIS uses makes it easier for the FBI to crack. With hardware encryption ala iOS, it becomes notably more complicated.
  • Digital is not the same as analogue. If you build-in a way to enable brute force attacks this will be usable by others as well - criminals, foreign governments, enemies. The analogue equivalent would be building all locks intentionally in a way to support opening it with a publicly available passkey.
  • Cook had to invoke children and veterans just to get the support of his own employees. Kind of sad.
  • What makes you think he didn't already have their support?
  • I think the point flew past your head. The goal was to illustrate that all likes of people, even those in former service of the armed forces of the USA perceive this as an overreach.
  • I'm a retired combat veteran. It is not an overreach. It is the LAW, which is under the constitution, which I swore to uphold and defend. If other ex-military personnel are saying it's an overreach, then they are as clueless as everyone trying to defend Apple in this non-case derived for publicity.
  • I just have to say that I have gained a tremendous amount of respect for Apple since the start of this fiasco and I hope that they persevere. I agree wholeheartedly with Apple's position on the matter. The solution to this cannot be forced. It has to be well thought out even if it takes a considerable amount of time to find such a solution. The implications of the current ask are much too grave.
  • Doesn't the FBI have a team of computer/tech experts? Why don't they build a tool themselves? Not that I think they should, and I sure as **** hope Apple doesn't either! Sent from the iMore App
  • That seems to be the whole point. Especially with NSA cooperation, they probably already have what they want, or could get it without Apple cooperation. This whole thing seems to be more about setting precedent, as stated by many articles. Really weird when you read about the FBI having the iCloud password reset, turning the phone off etc, stopping them from gaining access to data. Its hard to imagine that the FBI wouldn't have experts who knew those steps would hinder data recovery. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Tim Cook implies "Terrorists trust Apple to keep their data safe"
  • Yep
  • Just another "token" debate in the name of agency transparency. If the federal govt. wants it, the federal govt. will get it, and that's all there really is to it. This is just so they can appear to the public as though they're trying to keep things honest. I will say that I do enjoy the irony to be had in their wanting to have this "back door" access to these phones in an attempt to thwart future terrorist attacks, whilst knowing ****-well that these terrorist attacks are the EXACT excuse that these agencies need to slightly extend their reach into our lives every time they occur. I'm sorry, but we'll die in a thousand car accidents on our way to or from work on any given random day before we'll meet our fate by way of a terrorist attack (statistically speaking), so as far as I'm concerned, the agent-man can stay the heck out of my/our phone(s). c/p
  • If you'd like to support Apple's stance on privacy, there is a White House petition at https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/apple-privacy-petition #StandWithApple