Seeking to avoid a legal showdown with the U.S. government, Apple on Monday called for a government panel to review the issues of data privacy and national security raised by the FBI’s demand that it unlock a terrorist’s iPhone.
Apple said last week it would oppose a court order requiring it to help the FBI break into the iPhone of San Bernardino mass shooter Syed Farook. On Monday, the company reiterated its hardline stance, saying it would not create a unique operating system to override the phone’s passcode protection.
A passcode is required to unlock the encryption of the data on the phone and a security feature automatically wipes the phone clean of all its data after 10 incorrect passcode attempts have been entered.
“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,” Apple said in a Q&A posted on its website.
The company also said the “best way forward” would be for the government to withdraw its demands and form a “panel of experts on intelligence, technology, and civil liberties to discuss the implications for law enforcement, national security, privacy, and personal freedoms. Apple would gladly participate in such an effort.”
Such a panel has previously been proposed by Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), who chairs the Homeland Security Committee, to help break the impasse between law enforcement and Silicon Valley over encryption.
The FBI has shown no signs of backing down from its position that Apple should comply with the court order issued Feb. 16.
“Fourteen people were slaughtered [in San Bernardino] and many more had their lives and bodies ruined,” FBI Director James Comey wrote in a blog post published Sunday. “We owe them a thorough and professional investigation under law. That’s what this is.”
Apple is expected to file legal papers seeking relief from the court order on Friday.