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Apple CEO Sends Memo Asking for Drop of iPhone Unlock Order

In an all-hands memo sent to Apple workers and obtained by BuzzFeed News, Apple CEO Tim Cook has reaffirmed his company’s stance on a federal court’s order to help the US government to bypass the encryption on an iPhone used by an attacker in San Bernardino in December.

In the memo, Cook advises that the government “withdraw its demands under the All Writs Act and, as some in Congress have proposed, form a commission or other panel of experts on intelligence, technology and civil liberties to discuss the implications for law enforcement, national security, privacy and personal freedoms”.

Apple has warned that ceding to the court order could have global repercussions, in that other countries like China could then have similar demands heard by the company. None of these other countries, the company points out, have yet made demands on the same scale as those of the FBI in this situation.

On Saturday night, the FBI admitted that it had helped to reset the password for the Apple ID account owned by San Bernardino County and used for the phone. Apple claims that this reset lost the FBI an avenue through which it could have gathered data without needing a backdoor. Still, the FBI insists that the reset “does not impact Apple’s ability to assist with the court order under the All Writs Act”.

Given Cook’s long-standing commitment to safeguarding digital privacy, it seems a foregone conclusion that Apple will refute the order when, as is required, it formally responds in court by the end of the week.

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