This request from a grieving father shows why Apple absolutely cannot build a back door into the iPhone

Apple told the FBI in no uncertain terms that it did not want to help it hack into a dead terrorist’s iPhone.

But would it tell the same thing to a grieving father who wants the texts and photos on his dead son’s password-protected phone?

While Apple hasn’t publicly responded to Italian architect Leonardo Fabbretti’s viral open letter to the company to help him crack his deceased son’s phone, reports AFP, the company has told him privately that it doesn’t have the ability.

The request is an excellent example of why Apple continues to fight government requests for a “back door,” or software built into the iPhone or iPad that would allow it to access locked or encrypted user data.

There’s no doubt that Fabbretti’s story is heartbreaking: his son, Dama, died from bone cancer in September. Dama loved his iPhone 6, and took photos all the time that his father now wants to see. And the access that Fabbretti is seeking is not unauthorised, because Dama even let his father add his fingerprint to the phone, although it doesn’t work after the phone reboots.

But as sad as Fabbretti’s story is, whether his story is sad enough for Apple to circumvent its security measures is not a decision it should have to make. Many iPhone users have died, locking photos and other data behind passwords forever, and it would be a huge burden for Apple to individually choose which circumstances are worthy of using its closely held, still-hypothetical back door.

Apple has faced other heartbreaking requests from people who want to access deceased relatives’ iPads and iPhones in the past.

So Apple punts, and truthfully says that while it’s sorry, it can’t unlock an encrypted phone without its passcode.

“No one should have a key that turns a billion locks,” CEO Tim Cook said in an interview with Time. “It shouldn’t exist.

For Fabbretti, the silver lining is that the Israeli mobile forensics company reportedly cracking an iPhone for the FBI, Cellebrite, has offered to help him for free, reports the AFP.

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