Trump attacks Apple for ‘refusing to unlock’ iPhones for FBI
President Trump has attacked Apple on Twitter, criticising what he incorrectly characterised as the company “refusing to unlock” iPhones to assist law enforcement, while also tweeting from one of its devices.
Mr Trump claimed: “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.”
In a message sent by the Twitter for iPhone app, he added: “They will have to step up to the plate and help our great Country, NOW! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.”
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.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2020
Apple’s transparency reports reveal the company has actually responded to more than 127,000 requests from the FBI and other American law enforcement agencies over the past seven years.
The company did take the FBI to court over the agency’s efforts to force it to unlock an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernadino attackers in 2015, claiming that the backdoor the agency wanted could be exploited by criminals.
At the time, Donald Trump called for a boycott of Apple products until the company agreed to the FBI’s demands, again while using an iPhone.
In the end, according to the FBI‘s then-director James Comey, the agency paid a third party more than $1m to hack into the locked iPhone.
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There are many companies which offer such access to law enforcement, often at a lower price.
However, Apple has not refused to assist the FBI in regards to the most recent case in which four people were killed by a Saudi gunman at the Pensacola navy base in Florida last month.
In a statement, Apple said: “Within hours of the FBI’s first request on December 6th, we produced a wide variety of information associated with the investigation.
“From December 7th through the 14th, we received six additional legal requests and in response provided information including iCloud backups, account information and transactional data for multiple accounts.”
The president’s criticisms followed an appeal by the US Attorney General, William Barr, who on Monday described the Pensacola shooting as an act of terrorism and called on Apple to provide access to these phones.
But, according to Apple, it was only on 6 January that the FBI requested additional assistance to access a second iPhone associated with the investigation, and it was only then Apple says that it learned the agency couldn’t access either iPhone.
“It was not until January 8th that we received a subpoena for information related to the second iPhone, which we responded to within hours.
“Early outreach is critical to accessing information and finding additional options,” the company said, referencing the heightened lock-down which devices go into if they haven’t been unlocked for a long time.
Unlike in the San Bernadino situation, Apple said it was “continuing to work with the FBI,” adding: “We will work tirelessly to help them investigate this tragic attack on our nation.”