Apple CEO Cook: ‘You can’t have a back door that’s only for the good guys’

“There’s a burning debate – bordering on a battle – between the U.S. government and technology companies over encryption,” Steve Morgan reports for Forbes.

“The government asserts that encryption – when it is so strong that the police can not eavesdrop on communications in their efforts to catch and prosecute criminals – is a bad thing. Some government officials have even suggested that terrorists use encrypted communications to help carry out their acts of malice,” Morgan reports. “Tech companies are focused on building the strongest possible encryption and cybersecurity into their products — so strong that even they can not access data and communications on the computers, laptops, tablets, phones, and software they manufacture. In response to a cybercrime epidemic, tech companies are aiming for hacker-proof digital communications that enable businesses to conduct secure e-commerce, to protect consumers from identity theft, and to provide everyone with a safer smart phone experience.”

“The Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) calls itself the global voice of the tech sector. ITI members are the largest tech brands including Apple,” Morgan reports. “Tim Cook, CEO at Apple, was at The Wall Street Journal’s technology conference, WSJD Live last month when he said “I don’t know a way to protect people without encrypting”. Apple has been criticized by the government – and praised by users – for building strong encryption into their newest iPhones. “You can’t have a backdoor that’s only for the good guys” added Cook.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Obviously.

The reason for mass encryption is the misuse of mass surveillance.

France has among the most aggressive surveillance laws in the Western world. The recent terrorist attacks still occurred. Perhaps rampant rights-trampling mass surveillance isn’t the solution?

A man smarter than most once said:

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. – Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

Edward Snowden and spread of encryption blamed after Paris terror attacks – November 14, 2015
Privacy advocates alarmed as UK unveils laws proposing power to spy on Web use – November 5, 2015
Do not let the government snoops weaken encryption – November 4, 2015
UK Prime Minister Cameron backs law to make Apple’s iPhone encryption illegal – November 3, 2015
U.S. NSA seeks to build quantum computer to crack most types of encryption – January 3, 2014
Government pressure for Apple to bypass encryption reduced as iPhone owner enters guilty plea – October 31, 2015
Judge compares government request for Apple to access users’ iPhone data to execution order – October 27, 2015
U.S. judge expresses doubts over forcing Apple to unlock iPhone – October 26, 2015
US DOJ claims Apple lacks legal standing to refuse iPhone unlock order – October 23, 2015
Apple tells U.S. judge it can’t unlock iPhones running iOS 8 or higher – October 20, 2015
a href=””>Apple CEO Cook defends encryption, opposes back door for government spies – October 20, 2015
With Apple court order, activist federal judge seeks to fuel debate about data encryption – October 12, 2015
Judge declines to order Apple to disable security on device seized by U.S. government – October 10, 2015
Apple refused to give iMessages to the U.S. government – September 8, 2015
Obama administration war against Apple just got uglier – July 31, 2015
Edward Snowden: Apple is a privacy pioneer – June 5, 2015
U.S. Senate blocks measures to extend so-called Patriot Act; NSA’s bulk collection of phone records in jeopardy – May 23, 2015
Rand Paul commandeers U.S. Senate to protest so-called Patriot Act, government intrusion on Americans’ privacy – May 20, 2015
Apple, others urge Obama to reject any proposal for smartphone backdoors – May 19, 2015
U.S. appeals court rules NSA bulk collection of phone data illegal – May 7, 2015
In open letter to Obama, Apple, Google, others urge Patriot Act not be renewed – March 26, 2015
Apple’s iOS encryption has ‘petrified’ the U.S. administration, governments around the world – March 19, 2015


    1. If you think so little of your government, why don’t you go find a better one somewhere else. If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem. On top of that, you uselessly gripe about it.

      1. KingMel, So you are totally trusting of crooked cops that kill kids and poor black men…. just because?? And we all know how wonderfully honest and forth right our convicted political congressmen are… Even when they are found guilty and in jail.

        RIGHT? Ps, lets not forget the NSA which breaks the Constitution of the United States,,,, just cause they feel like it, you know, cause its ok… Right??

        A government only works when its people keep it in line.

          1. I so nor know anything about medications, but terrorists have switched to highly encrypted messaging at least as early as 1997. There were several articles in big newspapers on how they do it.

            So nothing really changed in that regard. Whether Apple will continue to encrypt messages or will set a back door for “good” government it will not affect the level of secrecy of terrorists at all. All it will do is open door for countless abuses, oppression, unconstitutional invasion of privacy, political witch-hunt, corruption — a road to totalitarian, Orwellian society.

        1. “Crooked cops” are not the “government,” old geezer. They are a small group within law enforcement as a whole. And law enforcement is a small part of the overall government. Is that clear enough for you?

          Crooked cops are terrible. When people lose faith and respect for law enforcement, they lose respect for the law and the rules that bind our society together. For those reasons, we must hold law enforcement personnel to a higher standard. But griping about the “government” does not help to solve that problem. That is the point that you missed.

            1. Cupcake? Seriously? What truth are you talking about, especially since you haven’t presented anything resembling either truth or an argument?

              Traditionally all you do is act like an infant, so I literally have no idea what you’re talking about.

            2. Who are you to tell anyone what to do, you fascist little guttersnipe? Are you back on MDN’s payroll for promoting more hate and division?
              You are nothing but a traitor to the United States of America, because you don’t like the guy in the White House.

            3. The preponderance of the evidence points towards Obama being a traitor (tons and tons of evidence), and not anyone on this forum being a traitor (scant if any evidence). Failing to support the president was once a badge of honor to the left when W was president, so it’s not logical to argue that one must support the president now or be a traitor. Again, a patriot is one who holds his leaders accountable, not someone who follows them blindly.

            4. No, son. A traitor is someone who betrays his COUNTRY, not someone who opposes the president. In fact, as you might recall, it was once very trendy among the left to complain about Bush in the name of higher principles and even the Constitution. Remember? In any case, a patriot is someone who holds his or her leaders accountable and opposes them when they violate the law. and the ideals of the country.

              Of course, you know that Obama has violated the law multiple times – Fast and Furious gun-running ops, IRS scandal, Benghazi, just to name a few.

        2. Those things that you mention–crooked cops and so forth–aren’t necessarily what most people mean by government.

          And the government having access to public information isn’t exactly necessary–till something happens that makes it so, that is.

          Personally, I have no issue with the tendency of government to try to accrue more power for itself because it’s all about balance. To much, and government becomes too obtrusive and burdensome. Too little, and government becomes essentially ineffective.

          This constant push and pull between government and the people that compose it is what our democracy is all about.

          The tension that so many seem against is ironically why it works, and if it ever gets to the point where either side becomes too dominant for too long then trust me, we’re all in trouble.

      2. Though USA is in much better position these last years (thanks a more open minded president since a while), there are still lots of “better governments” around the world… USA has still a long way to go to get rid off few very incrusted sectarian ideologies.

        1. I did not say there wasn’t…I did not say there was. You, like 43 other people completely missed the point. The point, since I apparently have to spell it out, is that blaming a generic “government” is both overly simplistic to the extreme and counterproductive. There are many capable and hardworking people in the government at the federal, state, and local levels that are doing their best to make things work, and it is not all that motivating when many people disparage them along the lines of lawyers and analysts. The point is, that if there is a problem, the solution is taking the time to determine and prioritize the issues, and then develop effective plans for solving them. The point is that continually griping about the “government” is useless and somewhat ironic, since you either support it in some way or, conversely, do nothing and just wish everything would happen the way that you want it to. Oftentimes, less than 20% of people vote in local elections.

          There is one more point. This is an Apple discussion site. A Mac and an iPhone and iPad and AppleTV and Apple Watch discussion site. An OS X and iOS discussion site. It is not a political site, despite the fact that MDN foments political battles to drive up postings and traffic, and the fact that a small percentage of MDN forum participants (Fwhatever, kent, handsomesmitty, etc.) never fail to use every topic to proclaim their political conventions.

          This forum has really gone downhill over the past decade.

          1. Saying government isn’t responsible for its mistakes because their are some good people in government is like saying an ax murderer is innocent because his left foot didn’t hurt anyone.

            Governments are rarely “good”. The reason we have a constitution is to protect people FROM the government because without a legal barrier governments naturally siphon up power and abuse it.

            Even with a constitution, the tendency toward government abuse of power never ceases.

            Governments do much worse than terrorists. But its like Stockholm Syndrome. People would get too depressed if they really faced how little government acts in their interest so they convince themselves that government is good.

            Somebody said that Democracy was the worst form of government … except for all the others. That probably the best way to put it.

            The government is necessary, but its not your friend.

      3. I’ve read all your sanctimonious and pious posts slamming a comment that simply points out the TRUTH regarding the inept federal/state/local governments.

        When has the overpaid employees of the DEBT RIDDEN government solved the problem they are tasked to deal with on a daily basis, year to year, decade to decade? Hmmm?

        Your childish directive to tell the poster to MOVE to another country and follow it up with an insult to a senior citizen (Eldernorm) is transparent for all to see.

        Melvin, you can’t handle the truth!

        Melvin, the wonderful free expression MDN forum has gone downhill the last ten years?!?!?

        I’ve got a suitcase for you …

        1. Much of what you have written isn’t true at all. Government (by which I mean its various agencies on the Federal level) is actually more efficient that most people give it credit for.

          Don’t see your issue with debt. This country runs on the stuff and in and of itself, not to big a deal.

          This is the United States after all, and if people can’t get together without bashing someone’s head in to discuss issues of the day–no matter how off-topic:) then we’re pretty much screwed, and all the “small government talk”–most of which is bs–won’t save us.

          1. You literally know nothing about the debt problem. A government that is trillions of dollars in debt has made slaves of future generations. It is irresponsible and immoral. It is a security risk as it makes us dependent upon creditors. What happens when the creditors come knocking? What will be sold to satisfy them? The threat is real and you are totally ignorant of it.

            1. That’s not true at all. What government–other than in fantasy land–operates entirely without debt? Debt is hardly the issue, what’s more important is what you’re spending the money on.

              Buy a house lately? A car? That’s debt. And before you even say it, most people (including those that can) don’t pay the entire cost for big-ticket items.

              Debt can also become overwhelming, though we’re talking about countries here, not individuals.

              It’s hardly the big deal that you’re making it out to be; especially if significant debt reduction comes at the cost of growth or infrastructure.

  1. Oh fer chrissake, stop quoting Benjamin Franklin as if that one sentence were the be all and end all of social and political existence.

    It’s not black and white. We give up a huge degree of liberty to be able to have a functioning society.

    And anyone who can only quote talking points – wherever they come from and whatever point of the political spectrum – has already failed. Let us be intelligent human beings, able to DISCUSS.

    1. John, Discuss, yes. Pontificate, lie, accuse baselessly, BS just for more power or money…. etc. Well, I tend to draw the line there. Just saying.

      In America today, way too many politicians only care about their career and not about doing the job they were elected to do.

      1. You’re right–about politicians, that is–but is that really any different from any other job when someone gets in a relatively influential position?

        It’s easy to be critical of such, let’s face it, human foibles, but I am willing to be money that if you’re were in the same position you’d do pretty much the same thing.

        I’m not saying it’s good, though what I am saying is that it’s human. And that’s not to say that careerist politicians don’t do anything beneficial for their constituents, though it’s not where their primary concern lies.

        And that’s human too. What you should be doing in those instances is voting against those individuals on whatever level you believe that they somehow working against the public will because the idea that all politicians–or smaller cogs in the machine, if you will–is a cliche and false.

        1. The government has a monopoly on violence to compel you to conform to its rules, whether good or bad.

          That’s a really big difference from other jobs.

          Also, how on Earth do you expect government power to be checked if not by the open expressed dissatisfaction of its people?

          You are not thinking this through.

          1. Actually if someone isn’t thinking things through, it’s you. How does the government has a monopoly on violence? I literally have no idea what that even means.

            Because from where I sit, there’s plenty of violence that the government has nothing to do with.

            And who said that people shouldn’t act as a check on government power? If you’re going to challenge me, at least read what I have written because via numerous reasons I have agreed with that very notion.

          2. What is this “monopoly on violence” you keep writing about? What rules are you being forced to conform too?

            Or are you implying that everyone should be able to do whatever it is that they feel like?

            Talking about not thinking things through.

    2. JS: Mr. Franklin’s comment is one of enduring truth…no? I say “yes” and it serves as a foundation (f/ my point of view), or at least a starting point for privacy/freedom discussions. Btw, we are discussing and using the comment is reasonable. To add to the discussion, you might point out why his statement isn’t true. Emoting your impatience/frustration re: the statement as a kind of DISCUSSION point doesn’t really advance a point.

    3. Just to repeat: The original context of the Franklin quote concerned the “liberty” of the people’s elected representatives in the Pennsylvania legislature to raise taxes over the objections of a financial elite during the French and Indian War. The rich folks had offered to literally buy the “safety” of the colony by financing the militia through voluntary payments, if the people would give up the right to tax them. Franklin insisted that this would be a bad bargain that would guarantee neither liberty nor safety in the long run. In other words, his argument was that Americans should be willing to sacrifice their private interests for the public good… not the other way around, as the quote usually is used today.

      1. Also, just to clarify: I completely agree with Tim Cook on this, because he isn’t making a statement about politics, but one about technology. There is—at least currently—no way to design an encryption system that has a back door that will only open in response to a court order. If the data is accessible with a warrant, it will also be accessible without one. Hacking is probably a bigger risk right now to the world’s political and financial systems than is bomb-throwing terrorism.

        That doesn’t mean that the use of secure communications and data storage by terrorists and other criminals is not a very, very serious problem.

    1. If that is true, then there would be no liberty left. That may be a famous quote, but it is logically without merit. Where did our liberty spawn from, if that is true?

      The answer is that our ancestors had the passion to fight for it. They create it. It wasn’t handed down from some original cache of liberty that will eventually dwindle to nil.

      All of the problems that face this country have solutions. The problem is that our politicians would rather be elected and re-elected than do their jobs. And the citizens are not without fault, either. In fact, the problem starts with us because we allow ourselves to be manipulated and used to further the aims of a small group who,lust for money and power at the expense of everything else. Think about it.

      1. Consider that laws generally restrict some action. For the most part, citizens of the USA had the most rights after the Constitution was ratified. Governments — federal, state and local — have been eroding those rights ever since. The repeal of Prohibition is an extremely rare example of a law increasing Liberty, and it simply cancelled a restriction.

  2. Here Cook wasn’t making a ‘political’ stand but a ‘technical one’, he’s not saying right or wrong about govt’s needing to break into criminals devices but just that any ‘door’ left open will be exploited by other criminals.

    left unsaid too is that if customers get hacked by criminals they would blame Apple and not the government.

    (Instructional True Story:
    I live in the northwest on the Canadian side of the border now, several years ago the British Columbia province was affected by the ‘leaky Condo’ problem, new rules to seal up buildings for heat lost caused moisture to build up and mould to grow in the walls of buildings. Hundreds of buildings, tens of thousands of units were affected, billions $ paid by apartment owners for repairs, some in my area costing 50k or more for each apartment — I saw so many high rises completely sheeted by scaffolding to do repairs — , people went broke. All because the government casually MADE a LAW (changing the building requirements to make a airtight envelope) without thinking of the WET Northwest conditions and ignoring warnings from local builders). The government never really took responsibility for it.

    Morale of the story is that the government often wants to do stuff, is warned but goes ahead, and the people suffer for it)

    1. This is a very good example! It’s “nice” to have “good intentions”, but it also needs skills to take the right ways to get those really come out as that “good”…

  3. The attacks in France were meant to justify more war in Syria, possibly the invasion of the country. Just like 911 attacks were used to justify the invasion of Afghanistan . And the non existent WMDs were used to attack Iraq.

    1. You lie!

      We found Sarin gas cannisters, and two tons of yellowcake. That’s not nothing. Also, loads of WMDS were placed on 18-wheelers and sent to the Golan heights right before the invasion. However, your ignorance is compounded by your lie that that was the only reason.

      Saddam attempted to assassinate a sitting president (HW Bush).

      Saddam funded terrorism operations, including the PLO. Look up Salman Pak. Also, Saddam was involved in the Murrah building bombing.

      Saddam violated the no-fly zone multiple times, breaking a UN treaty that he had signed.

      Saddam massacred the Kurds, using poison gas against his own citizens.

      Saddam starved his own people by misusing the Oil for Food program – again, a UN treaty that he had signed.

      Don’t forget about his son’s “rape rooms”, and the general oppression that a dictator performs upon his people.

      Your ignorance is amazing.

  4. If the terrorists are able to communicate undetected because of the encryption built into iOS, the equipment recovered must have been Apple equipment. Haven’t seen any reporting of that. So, is the assertion true or are some government agencies trying to use the tragedy to gain political traction to help achieve their operational goals?

    I think the latter. Shame on them.

    1. That is exactly what I thought when I heard the news about the secure method of communication. They are taking advantage of Apple’s firm stance on no spying and using it to murder civilians. I disagree with Tim on this one. After this problem is put to rest maybe we could go back to the encryption and privacy. But against ISIS, we need every tool available to us to bring them down and stop the slaughter.

      1. Government control never goes backward.

        Apples baked-in encryption isn’t the problem it has been alleged to be. Even if the terror movement is fully committed to Apple (doubtful), they have the capability to release and manage in-house app releases that provide as much encryption as they like.

        It should be noted that software encryption is algorithmic in nature. Algorithm is a corruption of Al-Khwarizmi, the Persian (now Iran) mathematician. The obvious problem here is that Sunni Muslims are too good at math. We need to exclude them from math class. Yeah, that’ll fix the problem. (If that sounds like the stupidest thing anyone can possibly say about the situation, let me know and I’ll become a Republican presidential candidate).

        1. No, that is not the stupidest thing. The stupidest thing yet is the insistence by Hillary, Bernie, O’Malley and most other Dems that Islam has nothing to do with terrorism.

          You are ignorant as to what Republicans actually say. You are simply repeating media interpretation of statements without actually investigating them yourself. You are also guilty of overgeneralization. (No, Cruz is not an idiot. You lose.)

          Also, Muslim technological achievements stopped about the 13th century, when the imams declared that the Koran set limits upon scientific exploration.

          So, you are ignorant of the past, ignorant of the present, and show the reasoning skills of a pre-developmental child. In short, you are a typical liberal, unable to understand reality and unskilled at handling it.

          1. Agree, the Muslims have contributed nothing to society as you mentioned. And ISIS, in the name of their Muslim religion, wrecks all the beautiful remnants in stone left to us by other cultures who did contribute.

      2. As someone said; “Government control never goes backward.” And: evil keeps popping up because it is in the mind of human beings, just as there is good. The question is which one do you choose and in what proportions.

        And: Apple’s encryption can be used against the bad guys, just as the bad guys can use it. Just like a gun in my hands is a defensive weapon, and in the hands of an evil person, the same gun becomes an “assault rifle.” The inanimate object has not changed.

        So encryption is a wash.

        I don’t that often agree with Tim Cook, but I do on this one.

    2. You have to keep in mind that Apple devices aren’t as cheap as you can get from Android, so the likelihood that they were using what the could afford (I suspect that the ISIS budget for such things isn’t terribly high) and that they were using a non-Apple device is high.

      That being said, if I worked for one of the many security services, you’re damn right I’d want some way around Apple encryption. In fact, I’d want my way around EVERYONE’S encryption, so that no matter what device they happened to be using, I could intercept their information if there were a need.

      As I mention earlier, this is government doing it’s job, and I literally have no problem with it. Now, that’s not the same as saying that they should get what they want–I definitely don’t think they should–but I have nothing against them trying, especially since if I were in their shoes I’d do pretty much the same thing.

      1. The obvious first step for the NSA to be able to spy on everyone would be for the legislation that creates the Agency to authorize that particular activity. It does not. Apples encryption does not thwart any existing law.

        The NSA and their talking heads are just bitching because they can’t sneak around the limits on their lawful activities. But FaceTime encryption and Messages encryption aren’t their problem. The Fourth Amendment is what stands in their way.

        1. You’re missing the point. It’s not a question of the NSA seeking authorization, it’s a case of the NSA apparently being able to access many other OS’s and Apple being a thorn in their sides, so to speak.

          As I said, I have no issue with the NSA trying to sway Apple’s policies in the public venue. Though that’s not the same thing as them being able to do so; that I don’t agree with.

          But them trying? More power to them.

  5. Time Cook is right, you can’t have a back door that would be only for the good guys. The American government would be really pissed off that they are excluded. Some might even argue through their delusional state that they are the good guys. I know, it’s such a hilarious thought these days.

  6. I’m sick of the Ben Franklin quote. In Ben’s day, in a war, regular women, children, babies, elderly and non military male citizens were never the main target of the killing. It was an armed, military to military killing agreement. Today’s ISIS objective is anything but normal war—the main target is innocent unarmed civilians.

  7. My guess is that Tim Cook know a lot about “back doors” and there are no “good guys” that use them (double entendre intended). And the 3-letter acronym so-called security organizations really don’t need anything “localized.” They have complete control of the Internet to access all transactions.

    We are way past Orwellian “1984”. We need to take back our Liberty. “Freedom” has become non-existant in this police state of the USSA. We are reliving Nazi Germany 1933.

  8. How would a policy requiring back doors be implemented? Would present secure iPhones be confiscated? Would government agencies such as FBI, CIA, NSA, have secure phones with no back doors? What about those that require secure phones to discuss classified information? Will the government accept responsibility for the consequences of the general having insecure, back door enabled phones? 🖖😀⌚️

  9. I would remind my fellow readers of this:
    1 Our civil liberties were not granted by any government and they have no right to abrogate them without our consent. 2 Their role is to act as a guarantor- not an overlord.
    3 The rights we have were secured as part of a long continuing struggle that runs from the founders telling the King to go to hell through abolition, to suffrage for women, to the right to strike, to the end of Jim Crow, the end of separate but equal, Miranda rights to the recent victories by our Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender/Queer citizens. You have no right to surrender a citizen birthright purchased at such a dear price.

    The people who continually rant about the need for you to surrender your rights work for or in a complex of agencies or businesses that make their living or derive their power by spying on you for profit- personal or corporate. They are unworthy of high office or American citizenship- assholes who would trade away your rights and privacy for their profit, political career or power.

    Government exists and derives all of it’s authority from the people. It is time we put a leash on the national security state.

  10. The problem with back doors is that millions of financial, legal and personal transactions because a large surface target for hackers. Once that occurs, a whole new layer of technology will have to be created making things even more complex.

    Maybe it’s time our governments should wake up and start admitting the truth about terrorism and deal with it squarely (and I’m not talking bombs although sometimes that is necessary). Repeating oft-said mantra that Islam is a religion of peace ignores Mohammed’s death bed text – which is the most violent chapter in the Qur’an which instructs his followers to continue a violent jihad. Radical Islam is the one that follows the Qur’an in context and according to the historical timeline.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.