Apple has been in the hot seat this week as the Government slams the iPhone maker for refusing to help with an ongoing terror case.
Jan. 15, 2020
Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) has come under fire this week for refusing to help the government in its investigations surrounding the Pensacola shooting case.
On December 6, 2019, Saudi Air Force 2nd Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani shot dead three Americans at Pensacola Naval Air Station before being fatally shot himself. Apple has since declined requests from U.S. Attorney General William Barr and the FBI to unlock two iPhones believed to have been used by the shooter, citing its commitment to the privacy of its users.
Has Apple tried to help?
The investigation began in early December, with Apple claiming that it “produced a wide variety of information associated with the investigation” following an initial inquiry. A company spokesperson claims that Apple provided gigabytes worth of data that included account information, iCloud backups, and transactional data for multiple accounts. Now, however, Apple is refusing to build what it calls a ‘backdoor’ for law enforcement to bypass its encryption, believing such a tool could compromise the security of all users.
The move comes at a time where many tech companies are being heavily scrutinized for their handling of private consumer data. Big Tech members Facebook (NASDAQ: FB), Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), and Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL)(NASDAQ: GOOG) have come under heavier fire than most from antitrust investigations and consumers alike.
It is not the first time Apple refused to help
Back in 2016, Apple squared off against the U.S. government under similar circumstances when the company opposed a court order to help the FBI unlock an iPhone of two shooters who killed 14 in San Bernardino, California.
The FBI had to enlist the help of a third party at a cost of more than $1 million to unlock the phone, while Apple’s stance received support from fellow Big Tech members, including Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT).
It is not the first company to refuse complete cooperation with an investigation either, as Elon Musk’s Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) declined to help local authorities last month in regards to a significant copper wire theft at its Nevada Gigafactory. Musk cited that making the company look bad drove his decision not to aid authorities. Apple’s case is significantly higher stakes but reinforces a trend of decision making based on image rather than morals which prevails in the corporate world.
What are the consequences for Apple?
In a rare occasion as of late, Apple’s stock price dropped more than 1% on Tuesday following a tweet from President Trump which claimed that Apple “will have to step up to the plate and help our great Country”, after allowing its products to be “used by killers, drug dealers and other violent criminal elements.”
We are helping Apple all of the time on TRADE and so many other issues, and yet they refuse to unlock phones used by killers, drug dealers and other violent criminal elements. They will have to step up to the plate and help our great Country, NOW! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2020
The move also sours a relatively healthy relationship between the White House and the Cupertino-based company, after CEO Tim Cook gave the President a tour of Apple’s Texas factory back in November. This relationship may be under threat following Apple’s decision and could affect the company’s sway on the President when it comes to negotiating tariffs in trade deals with China.
However, Apple does regularly provide information from its servers to law enforcement when it is subpoenaed, responding to more than 127,000 requests for information since 2013. It seems though that Apple wishes to stick to its guns on the issue of ‘backdoors’ to security, fearing that by opening up to ‘the good guys’, it leaves national security exposed to ‘the bad guys’. Or perhaps it is just afraid of public backlash over the security of its devices. In a climate where people are becoming increasingly worried about the safety of their data in the hands of tech corporations, Apple is actively positioning itself as the leader in user data security.
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