US President Donald Trump (r) and Apple CEO Tim Cook speak to the press during a tour of the Flextronics computer manufacturing facility where Apple’s Mac Pros are assembled in Austin, Texas, on November 20, 2019.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images
In a tweet, President Donald Trump slammed Apple over whether it should unlock password-protected iPhones used by the shooting suspect at a Navy base in Pensacola, Florida in December.
“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,” Trump tweeted.
On Monday, Attorney General William Barr claimed that Apple had not provided “substantive assistance” in unlocking the alleged shooter’s two iPhones.
In a statement late Monday, Apple responded that that it had provided gigabytes of information to law enforcement related to the Pensacola case but that it would not build a “backdoor” or specialized software to give law enforcement elevated access.
“We reject the characterization that Apple has not provided substantive assistance in the Pensacola investigation. Our responses to their many requests since the attack have been timely, thorough and are ongoing,” Apple said.
The tweet, sent from an iPhone, also suggested that Apple should work with the FBI because Trump helps “Apple all of the time on TRADE.”
Cook spent years developing a friendly relationship with Trump hoping to influence him and his staff away from tariffs, which would hurt Apple because its products are primarily assembled in China. Apple avoided a tariff on its iPhone in December after Trump announced a so-called “phase one” trade deal.
Apple was previously involved in a 2016 showdown with the FBI when the Justice Department sued it to help it gain access to a phone used by Syed Farook, who was responsible for the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, that left 14 people dead. The standoff ended when the FBI found an unidentified private vendor, who cracked the phone’s security.
“I agree 100% with the courts. In that case we should open [the iPhone] up,” Trump said at the time, which was during his presidential campaign.
In that case, Apple argued that it did not have the ability to unlock the phone unless it built specialized software it called a “back door.” In the Monday statement, Apple said it opposed back doors of all kinds because they can be exploited by bad actors in addition to providing access to law enforcement.
Apple regularly provides information from its servers to law enforcement when it is subpoenaed. Apple has responded to over 127,000 requests for information from law enforcement since 2013, according to statistics on its website. An Apple privacy official said earlier this month that the company has teams working around the clock to respond to law enforcement inquiries.
Apple didn’t immediately return a request for comment.