5 things you need to know about Apple vs the FBI

4. Why Tim Cook is refusing to comply with the court order

Cook wrote an open letter to customers lambasting the FBI's request for Apple to take what he called "an unprecedented step" that would threaten the security of Apple's customers.

You can read Cook's letter in full here, but it's important to point out why he is refusing to comply.

Cook wrote that even though the FBI says it wants to use the special version of iOS on just the one iPhone, the software would "undeniably create a backdoor," and, like Dr. Frankenstein's monster, it'd be difficult, if not impossible, to control once it's made.

"Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices," Cook wrote in the letter. "In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks - from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable."

While Cook wrote he believes the FBI is acting in good faith, he says the software it's asking for is "too dangerous to create."

Just as importantly, it would set a precedent for future demands by the US (or any nation's) government for Apple (or any tech company) to create backdoors that put customers at a risk for attack, and that's not something Cook is willing to take the lead on.

5. What the tech world is saying

A growing number in the tech community are speaking out about Cook's letter and the situation at large, and most are supportive of Apple's decision.

Jan Koum, co-founder of WhatsApp, took to to Facebook to laud Cook's letter and called for resistance to the FBI's demands.

"We must not allow this dangerous precedent to be set," Koum wrote. "Today our freedom and our liberty is at stake."

T-Mobile CEO John Legere was asked on CNBC where he "comes down" on the situation: "[Cook is] in a really, really difficult spot. Obviously what we've got is an unheralded situation where he's being requested to help authorities deal with the security in the device … I wouldn't know how to advise him, but I understand both sides of the issue. And I think it's groundbreaking."

Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak said he believes Steve Jobs "would have gone for the privacy" when asked by CNBC what he thought the late Apple co-founder would have done.

Everyone (including myself) was waiting on a reaction/response from Google, and we finally got one in the form of tweets from CEO Sundar Pichai late Wednesday afternoon.

Pichai sided with Apple, calling Cook's letter "important" and writing that, "[f]orcing companies to enable hacking could compromise users' privacy."

He warned that requiring companies to hack their customers' devices and data could result in a "troubling precedent," and that thoughtful and open public discussion should take place about the issue.

After a conspicuous silence, more voices joined the chorus of support on Thursday.

Facebook said in a statement that it "will continue to fight aggressively against requirements for companies to weaken the security of their systems."

"These demands would create a chilling precedent and obstruct companies' efforts to secure their products," it said.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey offered a brief message of support in a tweet, while Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith also added to the conversation on Twitter.

"In a world where we need to keep both the public safe and privacy rights secure, backdoors take us backwards," Smith wrote, including a link to a statement on the Reform Government Surveillance site. Microsoft is a founding member of RGS. Smith didn't mention Cook, and CEO Satya Nadella offered nothing more than a retweet of an earlier Smith post.

Apple plans to appeal the judge's order, but as the FBI's options to access the iPhone have seemingly run out, we're likely to see further public debate between the two entities, privacy and security advocates, and members of the public who, ultimately, have a massive stake in what's decided.

Lead image credit: Valery Marchive (LeMagIT)/Wikimedia Commons

Michelle Fitzsimmons

Michelle was previously a news editor at TechRadar, leading consumer tech news and reviews. Michelle is now a Content Strategist at Facebook.  A versatile, highly effective content writer and skilled editor with a keen eye for detail, Michelle is a collaborative problem solver and covered everything from smartwatches and microprocessors to VR and self-driving cars.