Apple is not backing down. CEO Tim Cook opened the company’s new product unveiling with an acknowledgement that Apple is at the forefront of an international debate over encrypted messaging.
“We need to decide as a nation how much power the government should have over our data, and over our privacy,” Cook said Monday.
He added the company is surprised to be at the center of a debate with the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice over the use of encryption in the iPhone and other Apple products. It’s a debate that began more than a year ago but has only grown louder after the Justice Department sought to force Apple to build a new software capable of unlocking the passcode on the iPhone 5c used by Syed Farook, one of the shooters who murdered 14 people in San Bernardino, California, on Dec. 2.
“We did not expect to be in this position, at odds with our own government,” Cook said Monday upon releasing iOS 9.3, the company’s newest mobile operating system. “We believe strongly that we have the responsibility to help you protect your data. We owe it to our customers and we owe it to our country.”
Apple has argued that, by creating the software for one phone, the company would be setting a precedent that makes it possible for police agencies to subvert iPhone encryption not just for terrorist investigations, but for smaller crimes as well.
“This is an issue that impacts all of us, and we will not shrink from this responsibility,” Cook said.
Cook’s remarks came one day before the company’s attorneys are scheduled to face off against the Justice Department in a highly anticipated hearing in a California courtroom. Apple security and privacy manager Erik Neuenschwander and manager of Apple’s Global Privacy and Law Enforcement Compliance Team Lisa Olle will be available for cross-examination Tuesday, the company said.