Apple Engineers Would Rather Quit Than Comply With FBI Encryption Orders


According to a new report from The New York Times, a number of Apple engineers would rather quit their jobs than comply with a court order compelling the creation of a backdoor in iOS.

If enough of the company’s employees participate in the action, it could make the FBI’s goal nearly impossible to achieve.

Apple is at the center of a contentious debate over digital encryption that pits user privacy and civil rights against national security. The company was in February ordered by a federal magistrate judge to help the FBI unlock an iPhone linked to San Bernardino terror suspect Syed Rizwan Farook. Fulfilling the order entails the creation of an iOS variant vulnerable to brute-force attacks, a forensics tool needed to bypass Farook’s four-digit passcode.

Apple has so far resisted government overtures for hardware access, saying the mere existence of a software workaround inherently weakens iOS encryption. Further, a Department of Justice win could set dangerous precedent, as law enforcement agencies would be able to leverage the same arguments for future data access operations.

In one recent filing, Apple estimated that creating the proposed “GovtOS” would represent between two and four weeks work for six to ten engineers, assuming a consistent and motivated workforce. Apple did not share who exactly would be tapped to work on the project, but today’s report said sources have guesses as to likely candidates.

From the beginning, Apple has insisted that coding a security-breaking version of iOS is fundamentally opposed to the companies values, arguing that the compelled creation of that software violates the company’s constitutional rights. Individual employees could appeal to similar logic, casting the refusal to code as an act of civil disobedience.

A software engineer with a passion for creation and innovation using technology. To learn more about me, check out my personal website, which contains links to my projects. Email:

  • johnnygoodface

    I just love the direction all this is taking! I just read the interview with Tim Cook in the Times and it’s asome! He never ceases to impress me by the clarity of his speech, his integrity and his commen sense. I couldn’t see anyone more fit the defend our rights and privacy than this CEO of Apple. Try to remember all that Apple is doing to fight for your rights and for your privacy… This is pivot moment in history!

  • Danny Cheung

    Can’t they just attempt and “fail”? Lol. If the FBI cant, WE can’t either!

  • Tim Cook is really putting up a great fight. Amazing TIME interview.

  • Now that would be interesting…sitting down, then walking away!

  • Tim

    While I agree that Apple’s stance is good for citizens, it’s always about the money. Tim Cook is intelligent and maybe even a nice guy, but his position is borne out of Apple’s economic interests first and foremost.

  • hub2

    I wish I could disagree and say he’s doing it on principle for the good of consumers, but I can’t since entry level iPhones and iPads *still* come with a mere 16 GB of storage… same as the iPhone 3GS in 2009, despite iOS firmware and app sizes increasing tenfold since then, on top of higher video recording quality and resulting filesizes.

  • m Arch Tom’s on Bar N Ass

    Apple is getting hilarious ! ” A doorman that won’t cooperate with FBI, police department and detectives, holding a magistrate warrant and to search premises of a suspect under investigation”. ( it’s really that simple ) in addition Apple also showing very little or even no abilities when coding software, and to design “FBI backdoors ” so to incl. warrant notification when issued by a state legal attorney, and visible in the notification panel on a iPhone. DRAFT

  • BigCat

    While this is all true, the situation is now different. In the past and still today law enforcement can make applications to the Courts for say wiretaps. These applications would become public record and could be later challenged in Court. It is not uncommon for a Judge to deny such requests if they feel the Police for example are just fishing for information.

    But now we have such things as the “Patriot Act” in the US (other countries have similar provisions). Under these new provisions “due process” to a very large degree is no longer required. This is the core fight. Law enforcement needs to be supported, but it also needs to monitored. People have and will continue to be willing to go to jail to preserve our basic freedoms.

  • m Arch Tom’s on Bar N Ass

    @BigCat . HI ! that is all very nice and clearly explained however, i still prefer a backdoor available to FBI or military squads, and following DOJ procedures and instructions when issuing search warrant and notification warrant, rather than having corrupted Apple employees and corrupted telco network employees ( incl. and no limitation to employees at CDN providers , content delivery networks ), monitoring my network connections and smartphone messages or calls. Eventually cutting state aids for apple ( and for telecoms network providers in EU at least ) is something we all look forward to seeing soon. I believe main difference between Unites States of America and “United States of Europe” though, in Europe we have terrorism threats to worry about along with nazi-fascists ( mostly catholic background countries or member states ) or the “mafia” and racketeering of nazi-fascits, to watch out for ( even more so considering the far too laid back immigration law that isn’t quite in place everywhere ).
    Having said so, we also have taken into consideration corruption among police departments and officers and in many of the communist/catholic EU member states,( also considering the once DDR, Eastern Germany ) the very reason why ( even not clearly stated and official for equal opportunity employers constraints ), catholics will not have a chance ever, to be hired by such Union Bureau or Investigation in EU, as well as setting to 35YO the minimum age to be hired by UBI. DRAFT

  • BigCat

    “following DOJ procedures and instructions when issuing search warrant and notification warrant”

    “magistrate issuing a warrant and often a notification warrant for the person under investigation, is still mandatory”

    In the past when the rules in the above statements were being observed there was complete transparency and due process. Then came the creation of special laws such as the Patriot Act” (just to name one) to help strengthen National Security. No judge or paperwork are required if you are deemed to be a threat. The proceedings are secret. This is where the abuse of power begins and where it ends is unknown, because that is considered National Security.

    People need to know and trust that there is a process in place that protects them from abuse. Having the Government freely playing the National Security card to get what they want is very troubling.

  • m Arch Tom’s on Bar N Ass

    @BigCat . That’s a lot of bullshit ! If You were to be believed, we would be living in a nazi-fascist world, or even worse a communist regime in soviet union style. All of You should really STOP creating panic and spreading terrorism around the world, and stop creating hatred against the state and government institutions.

    (in brief: you come across like another catholic and mental, and trying to allow the catholic church communities to ” control ” lives of others, that is not a route we would ever follow in europe due to past, 1940’s, events and precedents )