Tim Cook reaffirms encryption protocol, gets backing from Snowden, WhatsApp and Google

Amid accusations of protecting a terrorist's privacy, Apple CEO Tim Cook has receiving the backing of tech giants Google, WhatsApp and whistle-blower Edward Snowden in his attempt to safeguard Apple's encryption standards.

A US Federal Court has ordered the FBI to access the contents of the iPhone of a terrorist who was involved in the San Bernardino shooting but Cook insists he won't cooperate.

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"Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession," he said in a letter to Apple's customers.

"Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control," he added.

Cook's fears are based on the fact that if Government agencies can find a way to hack into encrypted data, so can hackers whose motives won't be as honest. It's quite possible that technologies currently in the domain of governments can fall into the hands of hackers at any moment.

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Fortunately for Cook, industry leaders like Google's Sundar Pichai, Microsoft's Satya Nadella and tech giants like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have backed his stance. An activist group called Reform Government Surveillance, which includes all these firms as members, published a statement on Encryption and Security in which the group said that "technology companies should not be required to build in backdoors to the technologies that keep their users’ information secure. RGS companies remain committed to providing law enforcement with the help it needs while protecting the security of their customers and their customers’ information."



Popular whistle-blower Edward Snowden also tweeted his support to Tim Cook, stressing that rather than protecting citizens' right to privacy, FBI is forcing them to depend on Apple to protect theirs.

However, The fact that FBI is unable to gather more evidence concerning the terrorists due to Apple's existing encryption standards hasn't gone down well with a number of politicians in the United States, including Presidential candidate Donald Trump and senator Tom Cotton.

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“The problem of end-to-end encryption isn’t just a terrorism issue. It is also a drug-trafficking, kidnapping and child pornography issue that impacts every state of the Union. It’s unfortunate that the great company Apple is becoming the company of choice for terrorists, drug dealers and sexual predators of all sorts,” said Cotton.

In the UK, Tim Cook has opposed the proposed Investigatory Powers Bill, stating that "if you halt or weaken encryption, the people that you hurt are not the folks that want to do bad things. It’s the good people. The other people know where to go."

We believe very strongly in end to end encryption and no back doors. We don’t think people want us to read their messages. We don’t feel we have the right to read their emails,” he added.

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However, Ray McClure, the uncle of Lee Rigby who was killed by Islamic terrorists in 2013, has been critical of Apple's encryption policies, stating that Cook was “protecting a murderer’s privacy at the cost of public safety.”

"Valuable evidence is on that smartphone and Apple is denying the FBI access to that information. you wouldn't stop them, you would allow them in - why should a smartphone be any different? If Mr Cook has no sympathy for terrorists, why is he stopping the FBI accessing those phone records?" he told the BBC.

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