Donald Trump Calls Out Apple to Unlock iPhones Used by Criminals
Donald Trump has called out Apple to help unlock the iPhones used by the gunman in Florida Shooting. His tweet comes as a support to the FBI's phone unlock request to Apple, and AG Barr's claims that Apple has provided no "substantive assistance" in the on-going investigation.
According to Trump, the United States government has been helping Apple on trade and other issues but the company refuses to help unlock phones used by criminals. Trump's tweet further says that Apple needs to "step up to the plate" and help the country become great again.
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.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2020
President Trump's tweet was published a day after Apple provided a strongly worded response to refute AG Barr's claims that the company had not been helpful. According to The New York Times, Attorney General William P. Barr said that Apple had not provided any substantive assistance for the on-going investigation by the FBI:
“This situation perfectly illustrates why it is critical that the public be able to get access to digital evidence,” Mr. Barr said. He called on technology companies to find a solution and complained that Apple had provided no “substantive assistance,” a charge that the company strongly denied on Monday night, saying it had been working with the F.B.I. since the day of the shooting.
Here is the complete statement by Apple in response to AG Barr's claims, as shared by Input.
We were devastated to learn of the tragic terrorist attack on members of the US armed services at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida on December 6th. We have the greatest respect for law enforcement and routinely work with police across the country on their investigations. When law enforcement requests our assistance, our teams work around the clock to provide them with the information we have.
We reject the characterization that Apple has not provided substantive assistance in the Pensacola investigation. Our responses to their many requests since the attack have been timely, thorough and are ongoing.
Within hours of the FBI’s first request on December 6th, we produced a wide variety of information associated with the investigation. From December 7th through the 14th, we received six additional legal requests and in response provided information including iCloud backups, account information and transactional data for multiple accounts.
We responded to each request promptly, often within hours, sharing information with FBI offices in Jacksonville, Pensacola and New York. The queries resulted in many gigabytes of information that we turned over to investigators. In every instance, we responded with all of the information that we had.
The FBI only notified us on January 6th that they needed additional assistance — a month after the attack occurred. Only then did we learn about the existence of a second iPhone associated with the investigation and the FBI's inability to access either iPhone. It was not until January 8th that we received a subpoena for information related to the second iPhone, which we responded to within hours. Early outreach is critical to accessing information and finding additional options.
We are continuing to work with the FBI, and our engineering teams recently had a call to provide additional technical assistance. Apple has great respect for the Bureau’s work, and we will work tirelessly to help them investigate this tragic attack on our nation.
We have always maintained there is no such thing as a backdoor just for the good guys. Backdoors can also be exploited by those who threaten our national security and the data security of our customers. Today, law enforcement has access to more data than ever before in history, so Americans do not have to choose between weakening encryption and solving investigations. We feel strongly encryption is vital to protecting our country and our users' data.
If you get the feeling of Deja Vu from this on-going back and forth between Apple and the United States government, you are not wrong. We went through this same issue with San Bernardino attacker's iPhone, when the United States Justice Department took Apple to the court. The whole tech industry rallied to support Apple on this issue, which included the likes of Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook and many more.
Whether you agree with Trump's politics or not, it is clear that Apple has a strong reason to not create a backdoor for their devices. Any backdoor created for a good purpose can also be re-used by the bad guys and have a negative impact. The United States government has been constantly asking Apple, along with other tech companies, to weaken encryption. However, in this digital day and age, agencies have access to more data than ever before, and weakening device encryption is not the solution.
It will be interesting to see if the Justice Department tries to take Apple to court again to get them to create a backdoor.