But Apple refused, and published its reasons in an open letter on 16 February 2016 from the CEO, Tim Cook.
"The implications of the government's demands are chilling," the letter reads. "If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone's device to capture their data. The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone's microphone or camera without your knowledge.
"Opposing this order is not something we take lightly."
Indeed, at its 21 March 'Let us loop you in' launch event, Apple took time before mentioning any of its new products to reiterate its determination to stare down the FBI.
"We did not expect to be in this position, at odds with our own government," said Tim Cook. "But we have a responsibility to help you protect your data and protect your privacy. We owe it to our customers and we owe it to our country. We will not shrink from this responsibility."
Apple has talked about the importance of data privacy many, many times the past, but this is the clearest statement yet that the company is prepared to take concrete action for that principle.
I personally feel that Cook has been outmanoeuvred to a certain extent. It's about the worst case on which to make a stand that you could imagine: the most deadly domestic terrorist attack the US has faced since 9/11, a subject on which the US public will surely, surely take the side of law enforcement. (Sure enough, a Pew Research Center poll found that 51 percent of Americans think Apple should hack the phone, compared to 35 percent who think it should not.)
And it's the worst time: presidential primary season, when Republicans are queueing up to act tough (Donald Trump has asked who Apple think they are for making this statement, but then again this is the genius who said they should make "their damn computers and things" on home soil) and Democrats won't dare support an unpopular cause.
But this makes the move even more admirable. I don't think Apple is doing this because it's a good strategic move - although caring about your customers is a pretty good business model that's served Apple well over the years - but because it believes this is the right thing to do.
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