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Apple launches are usually all about product, whether that’s new headline-grabbing device or an update to a piece of its software. On Monday however, CEO Tim Cook, used the occasion of the company’s latest launch to have a dig at the FBI.
“We need to to decide, as a nation, how much power the government should have over our data and our information,” Cook said at the event.
The US investigative bureau and the technology giant have been in a protracted battle, with the former looking to Apple to give it access to an iPhone belonging to San Bernardino gunman Syed Rizwan Farook.
The phone is locked with passcode-enabled strong encryption which means Apple can’t simply extract the data, as it could prior to iOS8. And the FBI can’t put its technical boffins to work on brute-forcing the device thereby cracking its passcode, because Apple’s in-built security mechanisms prevent it. These protections include a requirement for manual entry of the passcode; an auto-erase for all data after 10 attempts; and an in-built milliseconds-delay between passcode guesses, which would ensure any brute force attack takes years to carry out.
The FBI has therefore asked Apple to create a new OS version which bypasses these protections. The bureau says it’ll only use it once, but Apple knows it can’t guarantee that and that cooperating with the FBI could wreak major damage among its customers.
And Apple has a lot to lose on that front. At the event, the company announced that there are now more than one-billion Apple devices in use around the world.
“This is an incredible milestone for us and an important indicator of Apple’s importance in the world,” Cook said.
Despite the magnitude of those numbers, he underlined the company’s understanding of how intensely personal people’s devices are to them.
“We built the iPhone for you, our customers, and we know it is a deeply personal device,” he said.
Before moving on to the product part of the launch, Cook reiterated that Apple would continue fighting to keep user data private (from the government, at least).
“We believe strongly that we have a responsibilty to help you protect your data[…]and we will not shrink from this responsibility,” he said.