Apple fears FBI case could allow surveillance via iPhone camera and microphone

Eddy Cue has said in an interview with Univision that if the FBI wins its case against Apple, there is nothing to stop the precedent being used to extend government surveillance.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

Apple senior vice president of Internet Software and Service, Eddy Cue, has said that he does not know where United States law enforcement will stop, if it's able to force the hardware maker to create a version of iOS to bypass functionality that auto-erases a device once a number of failed passcode attempts is reached.

Speaking to Spanish-language Univision, Cue warned of further encroachment on civil liberties.

"One day they may want us to open your phone's camera, microphone. Those are things we can't do now. But if they can force us to do that, I think that's very bad," Cue said in a transcript provided by Apple. "Because where does this stop? In a divorce case? In an immigration case? In a tax case with the IRS?"

"Some day, someone will be able to turn on a phone's microphone. This should not happen in this country."

Cue said that in New York City alone, there are over 200 cases where law-enforcement is after access to handsets.

"These aren't going to be terrorism cases, they are going to be all sorts of cases. I don't even know what they are," he said.

Beyond the US, Cue said if the FBI was successful, it would be a very bad decision with other countries looking to gain access to the same backdoor.

"If this case happens here, there will be countries that will say 'I want the same' ... And where does this stop?" he said.

Last month, Apple was ordered by a US magistrate to help the FBI gain access to the phone of one of the San Bernardino shooters -- a decision that Apple is fighting against.

Cue is the latest from Apple's executive team to lash out at the order, claiming the demand equates with the construction of a backdoor.

"What they want is to give them a key to the back door of your house and we don't have the key. Since we don't have the key, they want us to change the lock," Cue said.

Last week, Apple notched up a victory against the Department of Justice when US Magistrate Judge James Orenstein from the United States District Court Eastern District of New York concluded that Apple is not obligated to assist government investigators against its will.

Orenstein found that Apple was not blocking US law enforcement from accessing the data on the iPhone in question in that case, and the government interpretation of All Writs Act (AWA) was so expansive as to render the Act unconstitutional.

The AWA is the same law under which the FBI is seeking access to the iPhone 5C used by one of San Bernardino shooters.

In its fight against the Federal Court order, Apple has gained the support of many technology heavyweights, including Google and Microsoft.

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