Apple CEO Tim Cook defended his company’s resistance to help the government access an iPhone involved in a terrorism case as “making the right choice” in an interview to be aired Feb. 24.
“The trade-off here is, we know that doing this could expose people to incredible vulnerabilities,” Cook told ABC News’ David Muir. “This is not something that we would create. This would be bad for America. It would also set a precedent that I believe many people in America would be offended by. And so when you think about those, which are knowns, compared to something that might be there, I believe we are making the right choice.”
A federal judge on Feb. 16 ordered Apple to help the Federal Bureau of Investigation access an iPhone used by Syed Farook, one of two suspected shooters in a Dec. 2 attack in San Bernardino, Calif. that left 16 dead, including the attackers. Investigators believe the iPhone may hold clues about the assailants’ motives. But it is locked by a password, and the feds fear that entering an incorrect code too many times would activate a safety feature that would automatically delete any data stored on the device.
Cook has previously argued that helping investigators bypass that security mechanism would be the equivalent to creating a “master key” that could be used to unlock millions of other iPhones. If created, Cook fears such a mechanism could fall into the hands of hackers, thieves or repressive governments. A recent Pew poll, however, found that most Americans say Apple should assist the government.
“David, some things are hard,” the Apple CEO told Muir. “And some things are right. And some things are both. This is one of those things.”
Muir’s full interview with Cook airs on ABC’s World News Tonight with David Muir at 6:30 p.m. ET and on Nightline at 12:35 a.m.