Even if Apple wanted to give the government access to personal data on a locked iPhone, it would be technically impossible.
That’s the message Apple sent loud and clear in a brief filed on Monday to US federal judge James Orenstein.
The brief was in response to the Justice Department asking for Apple’s aid in accessing the data on a seized iPhone that’s part of an ongoing investigation.
“For devices running iOS 8 or higher, Apple would not have the technical ability to do what the government requests — take possession of a password protected device from the government and extract unencrypted user data from that device for the government,” Apple said in its letter, which was obtained by The Wall Street Journal. “Among the security features in iOS 8 is a feature that prevents anyone without the device’s passcode from accessing the device’s encrypted data. This includes Apple.”
Apple said it does have the “technical ability to extract certain categories of unencrypted data” from iPhones running iOS 7, but its compliance with government requests could “threaten the trust between Apple and its customers and substantially tarnish the Apple brand.”
Apple CEO Tim Cook has been very public about his company’s stance on privacy rights.
“We have a straightforward business model that’s based on selling the best products and services in the world,” Cook said during a speech at the White House cybersecurity summit earlier this year. “Not on selling your personal data.”
During a recent interview with NPR, Cook got candid. “I don’t support a back door for any government, ever,” he said.
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