February 19, 2016 Last Updated 3:52 pm

Justice Department pushes back at Tim Cook’s customer letter regarding unlocking iPhone, calls stance a ‘public brand strategy’

Meanwhile, The New York Times comes out in favor of Apple’s stance in an editorial that Apple is ‘doing the right thing’ while Donald Trump calls for boycott

The Justice Department is not letting Apple off the hook, its wants Judge Sheri Pym of the Federal District Court for the Central District of California to compel Apple to help the FBI break into the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook, despite Apple CEO’s adamant refusal to do so.

“Rather than assist the effort to fully investigate a deadly terrorist attack by obeying this Court’s Order of February 16, 2016, Apple has responded by publicly repudiating that Order,” the memorandum states.

iPhone-firmware-featureThe accusation is a reaction to Apple CEO’s public letter to customers where he states that the government is asking too much.

The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers,” wrote Cook. “We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand.”

“For many years, we have used encryption to protect our customers’ personal data because we believe it’s the only way to keep their information safe. We have even put that data out of our own reach, because we believe the contents of your iPhone are none of our business,” Cook said.

Apple has gotten some support today from The New York Times which said in an editorial.

“Law enforcement agencies have a legitimate need for evidence, which is all the more pressing in terrorism cases. But the Constitution and the nation’s laws limit how investigators and prosecutors can collect evidence.”

“Apple has already given the F.B.I. data from the phone that was backed up and stored on its iCloud service; the last backup was made about a month before the attacks… But writing new code would have an effect beyond unlocking one phone. If Apple is required to help the F.B.I. in this case, courts could require it to use this software in future investigations or order it to create new software to fit new needs. It is also theoretically possible that hackers could steal the software from the company’s servers,” the NYT wrote.

The Justice Department, however, is having none of it, accusing Apple of using its defense of privacy as a marketing tool.

“Based on Apple’s recent public statement and other statements by Apple, Apple’s current refusal to comply with the Court’s Order, despite the technical feasibility of doing so, instead appears to be based on its concern for its business model and public brand strategy,” the Justice Department said.

Of course, both things may be right: Apple may be concerned with the privacy consequences of the court’s order, and also concerned that the company’s reputation for both customer service and the security of its devices are at stake.

Then there is Presidential candidate Donald Trump, fresh off taking on the Pope, calling for a boycott of Apple at a South Carolina campaign event: “Boycott Apple until such time as they give that information.”

Trump does not use an iPhone, his spokesman said (likely a Blackberry).

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