Justice Department Claims Apple’s Encryption Stance Was Marketing

Apple CEO Tim Cook may have won over the tech industry with his stance against government backdoors, but the feds are having none of it. The Justice Department shot back against Cook’s very public refusal to grant access to the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone, claiming in a filing that it “appears to be based on its concern for its business model and public brand marketing strategy.”

At the center of the conflict between Apple and the Justice Department is the iPhone of Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the attackers in the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, last December.

The FBI has been investigating motives and possible associations with terrorist organizations, and as part of those investigations also accessed Farook’s iCloud account. However, the bureau claims that Farook’s iPhone may contain information that wasn’t backed up on that iCloud account, and had asked Apple to assist in unlocking the device.

Apple refused, and the Justice Department went to court, leading to a court order earlier this week that would require the company to unlock the phone. In his statement, Cook claimed that the case was as much about getting a precedent to access devices in the future as about this individual device: “We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand.” Cook has since gotten support from executives from Google, Facebook and Twitter for his stance.

The Justice Department shot back Friday, claiming that all this talk about backdoors was just smoke and mirrors. However, the feds also clearly expressed displeasure with the security in place on Apple’s devices, writing: “Apple has attempted to design and market it products to allow technology, rather than the law, to control access to data.” Prosecutors now want a judge compel Apple to comply with the court order.

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