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Apple's Eddy Cue on FBI iPhone feud: 'Where does it stop?'

Apple's Senior VP says that the FBI could force it to spy on suspects using the iPhone's camera.
Steve Dent, @stevetdent
March 10, 2016
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Apple continues to make its case in the court of public opinion about its ongoing dispute with the FBI. In a Spanish interview with Univision, Senior VP Eddy Cue says that if the agency forces Apple to create software to unlock San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook's iPhone, it would only benefit the bad guys. "If we make a key that opens all phones ... terrorists, criminals and pirates would find it," he says. Furthermore, Cue thinks that if its petition is successful, the FBI might make more sinister requests of Apple. "For example, one day they may want us to open your phone's camera and microphone."

As an example, Cue said that in New York City alone, there are more than 200 cases where law enforcement wants Apple to unlock iPhones, many unrelated to terrorism. "Where will this stop? In a divorce case? In an immigration case? In a tax case with the IRS?" During congressional hearings last month, FBI director James Comey admitted that a victory in the San Bernardino case could give the agency privileged access to encrypted devices -- despite his earlier claims that it wasn't trying to set a precedent.

Following the interview, Apple provided an English translation to Business Insider, showing how eager it is to counter the agency's side of the story. And last week, Craig Federighi penned an op-ed in the Washington Post saying the FBI's stance makes everyone less secure. That also parallels CEO Tim Cook's early statement that "if the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone's device to capture their data."

Cue notes that the government itself has already lost employee and credit card data to hackers. "The only way we can protect ourselves is to make the phones more secure," he says. He added that Apple is willing to go all the way to the Supreme Court to fight the FBI's request, though he would prefer that Congress resolve it. "This is a very big case that's about more than just terrorism," he says. "To let the government have that much power is not a good thing."

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