Tim Cook warns of 'slippery slope' in San Bernardino data drama

Tim Cook

Apple CEO is still fighting for digital civil liberties in a new interview with Time Magazine, and has warned that if the government win - and are able to get the data from the phone of the San Bernardino shooters - it could only be the beginning.

Talking about the All Writs Act, the two hundred year old law which the government is trying to use to compel Apple to cooperate, Cook argued that its use could lead to a "slippery slope" of unwanted side effects.

"[T]he act itself doesn't look at the crime, it doesn't look at the reason the government wants it. It looks at the burden to the company that it's asking to do it.", Cook explained to Time, "So this case was domestic terrorism, but a different court might view that robbery is one. A different [court] might view that a tax issue is one. A different one might view that a divorce issue would be okay. We saw this huge thing opening and thought, you know, if this is where we're going, somebody should pass a law that makes it very clear what the boundaries are. This thing shouldn't be done court by court by court by court."

Going Further

Scarily, Cook also painted a picture of how letting the ancient law go further could cause even more problems for civil liberties.

"[I]f this All Writs Act can be used to force us to do something would make millions of people vulnerable, then you can begin to ask yourself, if that can happen, what else can happen? In the next senate you might say, well, maybe it should be a surveillance OS done. Maybe law enforcement would like the ability to turn on the camera on your Mac."


He also added that "[W]e think it's fundamentally wrong. And not just wrong from a privacy point of view, but wrong from a public safety point of view.".

"[W]e think the government should be pushing for more encryption. That it's a great thing. It's like the sun and the air and the water. It's a superb thing."

The interview is worth reading in full - not least because it also reveals how Cook was offended that he had to learn that the government was filing suit through the press, and how despite him being one of the most powerful people in America, he hasn't spoken directly to President Obama about the case. You can read the full interview here.