Apple CEO Tim Cook is still angry the Obama administration hasn’t taken a firm stance on unbreakable encryption.
Cook reportedly told White House officials last week they should “come out and say ‘no backdoors'” during a recent meeting regarding counterterrorism issues held in San Jose, according to The Intercept. Representatives from major technology companies including Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Twitter also attended the meeting.
Cook has long said that the U.S. government should support unbreakable encryption, but FBI director James Comey has been Cook’s biggest adversary regarding encryption on iOS devices. Comey has argued on multiple occasions that encryption makes it impossible for law enforcement to intercept criminals’ communications, making solving crimes harder.
“Justice may be denied, because of a locked phone, or an encrypted hard drive,” Comey said during a speech in Washington after becoming FBI director. “The notion that the marketplace could create something that would prevent [a locked] closet from ever being opened, even with a properly obtained court order, makes no sense to me.”
Cook’s (and Apple’s) stance on encryption remains unchanged: Since iOS 8, Apple has made it so that it’s impossible for anyone (including itself) to be able to decrypt the data on an iOS device. In other words, even if the government asked Apple to decrypt a user’s device (running iOS 8 and higher), it wouldn’t be able to.
In a recent 60 Minutes special, Cook reiterated to TV correspondent Charlie Rose why end-to-end encryption is important:
Here’s the situation is on your smartphone today, on your iPhone, there’s likely health information, there’s financial information. There are intimate conversations with your family, or your co-workers. There’s probably business secrets and you should have the ability to protect it. And the only way we know how to do that, is to encrypt it. Why is that? It’s because if there’s a way to get in, then somebody will find the way in. There have been people that suggest that we should have a back door. But the reality is if you put a back door in, that back door’s for everybody, for good guys and bad guys.
Cook added that he believes there is a way to have both privacy and national security. How that compromise will work out is unclear. Attorney General Loretta Lynch reportedly told Cook during the counterterrorism meeting a “balance” is necessary, although no solution has been decided on yet.