Inside Apple CEO Tim Cook’s fight against government overreach

“‘We didn’t hear anything for a few days,’ says Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO and the successor to the late Steve Jobs. ‘I think it was Saturday before we were contacted. We have a desk, if you will, set up to take requests from government. It’s set up 24/7–not as a result of this, it’s been going for a while–and the call came in to that desk, and they presented us with a warrant as it relates to this specific phone,'” Lev Grossman reports for TIME Magazine.

“We spoke in his office at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino – the address, famously, is 1 Infinite Loop. It’s a modest office, an askew trapezoid, almost ostentatiously unostentatious, with a few framed “Think Different” posters on the walls, some arty photographs of Apple stores and a large wooden plaque with a quote from Theodore Roosevelt on it (the ‘daring greatly’ one),” Grossman reports. “Jobs’ office is next door. It’s dark, with curtains drawn, but the nameplate is still there.”

“George Orwell knew mass surveillance would invade our homes. The twist he didn’t see coming was that it wasn’t Big Brother who would do it. We did it to ourselves,” Grossman reports. “‘It wasn’t very long ago when you wouldn’t even think about there being health information on the smartphone,’ Cook says. ‘There’s financial information. There’s your conversations, there’s business secrets. There’s probably more information about you on here than exists in your home.’ The question is, now that we have this deeply, richly, intimately installed new surveillance infrastructure, should Big Brother be allowed to access it? And if so, when and how? Or should private citizens have the means to protect it, from hackers and thieves but also from the government?”

Tons more in the full article – highly recommended – here.

MacDailyNews Take: A great article. Read it!

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Arline M.” for the heads up.]


  1. If Apple made toasters, this wouldn’t even be an issue.

    But because they make pocket computers that can also be used as communication devices, the Obama DoJ somehow thinks that they have the right to access all of your private information.

    And, they want to deliberately compel Apple to create the key to get into your safe, private space, all in the name of ‘the public good’.

    It’s the ‘Clipper Chip’ scam all over again. Idiots.

    1. I admire you Americans’ for your focus on individual liberties. However, this is what’s happening… you’re arguing and fighting in a vaccuum.

      1. You Americans, and us in other developed countries, accept that people’s freedoms can be taken away if they’re suspected of commiting a crime or if they have commited a crime. This is a feature and function of developed nations that enables the government to protect its people, and fight crime. We accept that people can have their property searched and seized in such instances. Or that they can be removed from society.
      2. You folks who are pro-Apple are basically saying that it’s ok for a company to purposely thwart the ability of law enforcement to get access to data on one of their devices. You effectively imply that it’s too bad for law enforcement, and the company who makes the device shouldn’t have to do anything or help. And that, in some ways, the data on the phone is “sacred”. This position in many ways contradicts point 1 above. And it raises problems. Why isn’t the information on your MP3 player subject to the same arguments? And in your fridge? And in your Dell laptop? And your HOME? Why not make homes impervious to law enforcement? Walls. Locks. Doors… And then when law enforcement needs help from the lockmaker, it’s too bad. And then the companies will argue like Apple has.

      You folks argue and see things in a vaccuum. The iPhone is but one thing that may have sensitive information about a person. So does your home. So does your storage locker. So does your safety deposit box. And so forth.

      The case law is well established compelling companies to cooperate and program computers. The statutes are well established and used as well. There is no overreach here. The dramatic issues are spurred by Apple.

      Law enforcement will only be able to get access to anyone’s stuff with a search and seizure, etc. warrant. This is a case by case basis. There is no infringement of any constitutional rights whatsoever.

      1. I’ve been reading your posts and there are a couple of points that I find interesting:

        “You folks who are pro-Apple are basically saying that it’s ok for a company to purposely thwart the ability of law enforcement to get access to data on one of their devices.”

        I don’t think that encryption technology is purposely designed to thwart the ability of law enforcement though that is a feature. I think encryption technology had been designed purposely to protect people’s privacy.

        What is new here, in my opinion is that the iPhone is non-searchable with the current technology. If an iPhone is the mp3 player then it’s protected/encrypted. Same for a laptop that has its files encrypted.

        Physical items like locks, safety deposit boxes, walls and doors can be circumvented by other means, so I don’t include this in my assessment.

        It is as you say “too bad for law enforcement”, but from my understanding, a company who makes a device with a key specifically for the final user and the final user only cannot be forced to design a key for anyone else. That’s what I glean from that country’s approach, but as there are a lot of countries on the planet other countries will take a different approach, some might outlaw encryption totally or force backdoor for companies wishing to create an encrypted product.

        It’s a new technology, one that really guarantees privacy and currently locks out law enforcement. Like any new technology it can be used and will be used for good or nefarious purposes.

        1. Road Warrior:

          Thanks for the comments.

          The point about purposely thwarting law enforcement is because that’s exactly what Apple did with its security/erase feature. And marketed this aspect of this device as well in 2014 starting. Apple knew how law enforcement was getting data and implemented a “guard dog”.

          This case is not about “encryption”. It’s about removing this guard dog so law enforcement can try and break into the phone.

          If you read the evidentiary record you’ll see the evidence is there that this happened.

          1. Guard dog or encryption the result is the same, no one breaks in to an iPhone except the user that has the key. Even if you pry it from their cold dead hands, you don’t break it.

            Regardless of the intent it thwarts law enforcement and provides extra privacy.

            Is this against the law? Who knows, making data unsearchable (encryption and/or guard dog) is a technology and I doubt that is it illegal in that country at the time it was created.

            If it’s about removing the guard dog so law enforcement can try and break into the phone then I think that might be illegal because a way to remove the guard dog, apart from having the key hasn’t been invented yet and from what I understand there is no way to force someone to create something against their wishes, at least legally, certainly not ethically.

            Now if Apple did create a way to remove the guard dog already that might be a different matter.

            Personally I like the idea of something being unsearchable, but that’s probably because my focus is on laws that are unbreakable, as any really good law should be. These governmental so called laws that can be misinterpreted or circumvented are a far cry from laws that cannot be circumvented or broken.

            Anyway I’m glad to see such a wealth of ideas around this topic, it’s what is needed.

            1. Yes Road Warrior, it is LEGAL to force companies and people to program anf create “software”. The case precedent exists and the law enables it.

              There’s no point in speculating when you can just read the evidentiary record amd other case law.

              It is 100% legal. What Apple is going is trying to stick handle through this by disputing the policy and laws. They are trying to force the contemplation of legislative changes.

              That is a tall order and as I’ve pointed out, Apple and its supporting are arguing in a vaccuum. It’s precisely this that is weak and would be exposed when analyzing these issues in depth (e.g., other companies could then create things impervious to law enforcement and also not help them).

              This is doomed to failure for Apple. I really wish Apple didn’t do this. It’s a terrible distraction that will not result in anything but the government getting access.

              I’m an Apple guy. I buy and use many of their products.

              Time will tell whether I’m right and Apple loses their appeals. If they do, I hope Cook will back off this stuff and focus on technology or just get into politics.

              Looking forward to the event next week…

            2. I’m not from that country so I could be wrong, but it would not surprise me that they do have laws that allow legal authorities to force and coerce people and organizations to do their will and there is precedence. After all they have torture facilities especially designed for that, all perfectly legal I’m sure, just as legal as it used to be for the Nazis to do what they did to their Jewish population.

              It’s a good thing you avoid making any ethical comment about it because it can be legal all it wants, but it doesn’t meet up anywhere near the basic principles of morality and ethics in this day and age.

              I think it’s going to be a win situation for Apple, cause even if they lose at the Supremes, they still the option to pack their backs and move to part of the free and civilized world.

              Either way it is a fantastic topic and I will be following it closely as I am sure you will too.

            3. Oh silly me, right after answering you I remembered that great precedent that allows the legal entities to order private parties to do virtually anything they can dream up.

              It goes back to the birth of the nation. Many of the founding fathers were slave owners and when you are a slave owner that’s exactly what you do, order private parties to do virtually anything.

              Perfectly legal, so it while it may a good defense approach for Apple, it might inspire that country to get back to its roots and reintroduce slavery. It’s be one heck of an improvement above torture, which that government also views as legal.

            4. Road Warrior:

              The DOJ has cited and discussed the case law that provides the framework for them to do this as well as the law. American companies in the past have argued just like Apple, and the courts have fleshed out this to such a degree that there’s an actual criteria for this.

              You also make it sound like the government and society has no interest in this. That it’s ARBITRARY AND FRIVILOUS to Order Apple to help. Like it’s an abuse of power on the order of slavery or something. It’s far from arbitrary and frivilous. 14 people were killed in a terrorist attack. It would be repugnant if the government didn’t try everything in its power to investigate that and to want to protect people. They have a fudciary duty to do so.

            5. dswe, look up Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA). You will see that it says that the government can’t legally do this to Apple. The All Writs act is general, the CALEA is specific. Chances are the CALEA will hold up in court over the All Writs act. So your “framework” is rather nebulous.

            6. One pain on the format of this forum is replies can get skinny. I certainly believe that society has an interest in this, the replies on this forum indicate that, and more for I’m seeing a lot of respect on both sides of the issue. We may disagree but that does not entail a lack of respect.

              I think it is indeed repugnant to see government in this day and age allow people (some of them innocent) to be held for over a decade without a trial. When the current president white washes any investigation of torture, war crimes and crimes against humanity with a “a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards” they are elevating people above the law and they are not doing everything in their power to investigate that and bring justice to bear.

              That to me is on par with other acts of aggression towards human beings as revealed by Snowden and any government that does that does not have the best interest of the people at heart. You certainly don’t want to give a back door to these people that are bereft of morals and ethics.

              To the point that if indeed Apple is forced to comply with the FBI’s request, I’d hope that Apple would realize that it’s time to leave the sinking ship and move to a country of the free and civilized world.

              I’m sure we’ll talk again as the case goes on.

            7. Road Warrior, you are unique in being an outlander, yet one profoundly impressed with this country’s moral basis and critical when it has strayed. That’s a consistent position. Other tigers roaming these forums change their stripes like underwear.

            8. dswe, I believe you are misunderstanding the issue. In any country that I know of, if the government wants to search your house, the government does’t make you manufacture a gold plated master key for them that will open all doors in your town with the same door lock. The government just breaks down your door. End of story.

              In this case the government is asking Apple to make a virtual gold plated key that can be copied by anyone, open any iPhone, and do this at Apple’s expense. But Apple isn’t preventing the government from breaking down the iPhone’s door on their own. Which is what they should do, when they have a warrant.

              The ability to crack this tech is out there, it is cutting edge, it is expensive. It is labor and expertise intensive. This is as it should be, it keeps the majority of the bad guys out of our lives and is a check on government intrusion. Cost/benefit analysis is in the favor of the government having no master keys to all the safes in the world and all the front doors of the world, same goes for iPhone security.

  2. A great article putting a lot of the issue into perspective.

    I’ve got a bit of an idea here that I’d like to toss out. What happens if Apple did make a special decrypting key for the iphone, just for the government, any government?

    Yup, say a universal governmental pass code, say 1111. Use that pass code to bypass and all the data on the phone becomes available to any government agency in the world that wants it.

    A simple solution, oh with a twist. For the governmental pass code to work the iphone in questions must not have been used for a period of time, say the time before a person is declared legally dead, 7-10 years. The iphone of course would have to use a time signature for this so that it can check the date it was last used and the current date. If that time is beyond the set time then the universal 1111 code would work.

    That would give the governments what they wanted but not the way they want it. Oh how the tables will have turned.

  3. I don’t know why anyone hasn’t thought of this.

    Have Apple create the backdoor, apply it to ALL government officials cellphones, unlock all of them, and post their pictures, information, etc. (think “fappening” just without the pretty celebrities) all online for everyone to access and see.

    Turn about is fair play. You want the key to my phone so you can snoop through all my stuff, just in case I “might be a terrorist”. How do we know the FBI director isn’t a terrorist, or maybe he’s a pervert, or a cheat, by unlocking his phone and allowing us to access his data, we’ll know whether he’s worthy or not of having the key to unlock all these phones.

    I’m no hacker, but if I was the government, I would be terrified of the prospect of a backdoor key, because the first people that hackers (or terrorists who get a hold of the key) aren’t going to look at my personal pics. They’re going to go after government officials. Either to spy on them and see what they’re up to, or to discredit them (think about Anthony Wiener with his inappropriate pic).

    Once exposed, they’ll be useless as a public figure.

    hence the reason why I have a hard time understanding why they would want this. The crooks in Washington aren’t anymore honest the the crooks anywhere else.

    1. I suspect the FBI Director of ulterior motives, but I’m more terrified that he is so dense that he doesn’t realise that his own privacy is forfeit. He’d better have nothing to hide — unlike J. Edgar Hoover — and every other public official that ever lived.

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