If the FBI successfully manages to force Apple to unlock the suspected San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone, the government could use the precedent to require the tech company to remotely turn on users’ iPhone microphones and cameras, Apple’s senior vice president warned this week.
Eddy Cue, speaking to Univision in a Spanish-language interview, reiterated Apple’s argument that its case against the FBI is not just about one phone or one suspect, but rather an issue of user privacy.
“When they can get us to create a new system to do new things, where will it stop?” Cue said, according to a translation provided to Business Insider. “For example, one day [the FBI] may want us to open your phone’s camera or microphone. Those are things we can’t do now. But if they can force us to do that, I think that’s very bad.”
“Where will this stop?” Cue continued. “In a divorce case? In an immigration case? In a tax case? Some day, someone will be able to turn on a phone’s microphone. That should not happen in this country.”
The interview comes as the FBI continues its efforts to compel Apple to create new software that would enable the agency to break into the encrypted iPhone of suspected San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook, which Apple has refused to do on privacy grounds.
Cue noted that the tech company has not resisted helping the FBI altogether, and continues to give the government “all the data we have.”
“In this case, the problem is that they want us to give the one thing that we do not have,” he said. “What they want is for us to provide a key to the backdoor of your house, but we do not have the key. Since we don’t have the key, they want us to change the lock. When we change the latchkey, it changes for everyone. And we then have a key capable of opening all phones. And that key, once it exists, exists not only for us. Terrorists, criminals, pirates, they too will be able to find and use that key to open all phones.”
Apple has picked up support throughout the tech industry, as well as from privacy advocates and users. On Wednesday, whistleblower Edward Snowden said during a democracy conference that the FBI’s claim that it can’t unlock Farook’s iPhone without Apple’s help, “respectfully, [is] bullshit.”
The United Nations human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein also said last week that forcing Apple to create decryption software could unlock “a Pandora’s Box that could have extremely damaging implications for the human rights of many millions of people, including their physical and financial security.”