U.S. Republican presidential candidate, reality TV star and apparent data security buff Donald Trump has some thoughts on Apple's objection to a federal court order demanding that it help the FBI unlock an iPhone in connection with December's San Bernardino shootings.
Trump decided to share his opinion during a televised interview Wednesday morning.
The topic of Apple's encryption battle with the FBI came up while the Republican front-runner was a remote guest on Fox & Friends, just hours after Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook published a defiant open letter about his company's decision to fight the court's first-of-a-kind ruling.
- Tim Cook's message to Apple customers
- Apple's Tim Cook blasts order to unlock iPhone, vowing to fight court order
- Apple ordered to help FBI hack Syed Farook's phone
"I agree 100 per cent with the courts," said Trump by phone to Fox & Friends about the Apple case, according to MSNBC. "We should open it up. I think security overall. We have to open it up and we have to use our heads. We have to use common sense."
By "open it up," Trump appears to be referring to what U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym ordered Apple to do in her Tuesday ruling: Supply highly specialized software the FBI can load onto San Bernardino, Calif., shooter Syed Farook's work iPhone to bypass a self-destruct feature, which erases the phone's data after too many unsuccessful attempts to unlock it.
Apple would also have to develop a new version of its iPhone operating system that circumvents certain security features in order to "open it up," as Trump suggests.
Or, as Cook put it in his letter, the tech juggernaut would need to "build a backdoor to the iPhone."
"In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone's physical possession," wrote Cook of the ruling's implications. "The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control."
This doesn't seem to be as much of a concern for Trump as it is for digital privacy advocates, however.
"Our country has got so many problems," said Trump of his stance on the court order. "These are two people radicalized who were given a wedding party by the people that they killed. There's something going on. We have to be very careful. We have to be very vigilant."
"But to think that Apple won't allow us to get into her cellphone," he continued. "Who do they think they are? No, we have to open it up."
Steve Jobs is spinning in his grave - Apple has lost both vision and momentum - must move fast to get magic back!— @realDonaldTrump
Federal prosecutors told Pym that investigators in the San Bernardino shooting case had been unable to access Farook's work iPhone because they don't know his passcode.
The device, which was running the newest version of Apple's iPhone operating system, had also been configured to erase data after 10 consecutive unsuccessful unlocking attempts.
Investigators think the device may hold clues about whom the couple communicated with and where they may have travelled, but as FBI Director James Comey told members of Congress last week, "we still have one of those killers' phones that we have not been able to open, and it's been over two months."
While Apple may have the technical ability to assist the FBI with this matter, the company maintains that doing so would threaten the security of its customers and have "implications far beyond the legal case at hand."
"The implications of the government's demands are chilling," wrote Cook near the end of his letter. "While we believe the FBI's intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products. And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect."