NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Apple’s ongoing encryption battle with the FBI goes nationwide Tuesday as demonstrators stage rallies at Apple stores across the country to “stand up against government backdoors.”
The Apple store on 59th and Fifth Avenue is one of more than 40 locations where protesters are expected to gather chanting, “Don’t break our phones” to encourage Apple to stand its ground against the FBI and a federal court order.
Rallies will also be held at Apple stores as far away as Germany and China.
The issue is the iPhone’s lock screen. If you put in the wrong passcode more than 10 times, the phone automatically deletes all the data saved on it.
Last week, a judge ordered Apple to help the FBI get around that to access the iPhone used by Syed Farook, who along with his wife killed 14 people in an attack in San Bernardino.
On Monday, Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook said the U.S. government should withdraw its demand that Apple help the FBI hack to the locked phone.
“We have no tolerance or sympathy for terrorists,” he said in an email to employees and an online post. “At stake is the data security of hundreds of millions of law-abiding people.”
Cook dismissed the government’s claims that the company is acting out of business interests. He said a magistrate’s order would essentially create a backdoor to the encrypted iPhone, which is Apple argues is unlawful and a dangerous precedent.
But Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counter-terrorism John Miller penned a New York Times op-ed Monday challenging Apple to be “accountable for more than just sales.”
In it, they say the phone is owned by the county of San Bernardino, which issued it to Farook, an employee of its health department. They also said under the law “dead people have no privacy rights.”
Miller and Bratton also say that up until late 2014, Apple had a master code for exactly this purpose and it was never hacked or abused.
Still Apple is refusing, saying in a letter to customers: “The passcode lock and requirement for manual entry of the passcode are at the heart of the safeguards we have built in to iOS. It would be wrong to intentionally weaken our products with a government-ordered backdoor. If we lose control of our data, we put both our privacy and our safety at risk.”
Miller told CBS2 the government is not using a backdoor tactic.
“The government doesn’t want a back door, they want the same front door they’ve been using for everything else,” he said.
He also said Apple’s refusal is keeping authorities nationwide from solving crimes and maybe even preventing them.
“We have a case in the Bronx where two police officers were shot by an alleged person involved in drug dealing,” Miller said. “We still couldn’t get into the telephone that may be important evidence in there and two other crimes.”
FBI Director James Comey said in an online post Sunday that Apple owes this cooperation to the victims of the California shootings and said the FBI could not otherwise “look the survivors in the eye.”
While tech giants like Twitter and Facebook have sided with Apple’s stance, Microsoft founder Bill Gates said the firm should help the U.S. government.
In an interview Tuesday with the Financial Times, Gates said, “this is a specific case where the government is asking for access to information.” He likened it to the police getting records from a phone company.
New Yorkers had a mixed reaction.
“I don’t want my data vulnerable and I really like the fact that Apple has made a very secure phone,” Upper East Side resident Nick Noies told CBS2’s Diane Macedo.
“For the FBI, I think you need to unlock it,” said Upper East Side resident Michelle Dansa.
“This is national security,” said South Bronx resident Frank Aguirre. “We gotta find out who was behind this guy, doing things in San Bernardino. It’s common sense.”
Apple’s appeal is due by Friday.
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