Apple on Monday rejected a public request by U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr to unlock two iPhones held by Saudi Air Force cadet Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, who was accused of shooting three people at a naval base in Pensacola, Florida,media reported. The company said the attorney general’s statement would not provide “material assistance” to the investigation.
Alshamrani is believed to have shot and killed three sailors and wounded nine in December.
“We deny that Apple did not provide any substantive assistance in the Pensacola investigation. We have responded to many of their requests in a timely, comprehensive and ongoing manner,” Apple said.
In addition, the company has promised that it will continue to assist the FBI as the case progresses.
The statement also details a range of authorizations to legitimately collect user data, including iCloud backups, account information, and “transactional data” from multiple accounts related to the shooting. As Apple points out in its biennial transparency report, Apple usually agrees to legitimate enforcement requirements, which can be search warrants, direct requests, or, in rare cases, national security letters.
But one thing the company won’t do, and really can’t do — crack the encrypted iPhone. Apple explains that once the device is locked, the data stored inside cannot be accessed unless the password is successfully entered.
In theory, engineers could crack an encrypted iPhone by writing custom software, also known as a backdoor, but Apple believes doing so would set a dangerous precedent that would expose all users to the risk of privacy violations.
“We’ve always believed that there’s nothing to open a back door for good people. Those who threaten our national security and the security of our customer data may also use the back door. “
Earlier today, Barr publicly pressed Apple over its reluctance to cooperate with the FBI’s request for unlocking.