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Republican senator: Apple is fighting for profits, not privacy

Republican senator: Apple is fighting for profits, not privacy
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Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonBiden pick for Pentagon cruises through confirmation hearing GOP senator questions constitutionality of an impeachment trial after Trump leaves office GOP senators wrestle with purging Trump from party MORE (R-Ark.) is pushing back on Apple's claims that helping the FBI unlock one of the San Bernardino shooter's iPhones would hurt Americans' privacy.

“Apple is not fighting for privacy; it’s fighting for profit,” Cotton wrote in an op-ed in Time.

Cotton argued that Apple deliberately engineered its products to be impenetrable to law enforcement for marketing concerns, despite previously agreeing to assist the FBI in 70 prior cases involving older model phones.

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The technology industry has broadly worked to regain consumer trust after ex-National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed the breadth of the government’s spying on U.S. citizens.

Cotton linked that effort with the rise of stiffer encryption algorithms that prevent even the manufacturer of a device from intercepting and decoding users’ messages.

“What’s changed? Apparently Apple’s marketing strategy did,” Cotton wrote. “In short, Apple says it can no longer cooperate with investigations because it’s now the business model of Apple to thwart these investigations.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook on Thursday argued the company is developing encryption standards with no regard to Edward Snowden's bombshell privacy disclosures in 2013.

“From the very start of Messages ... we launched it with end-to-end encryption,” Cook said in a separate interview with Time about an iPhone application. “And so this didn’t just happen, we didn’t suddenly think of this after Snowden. I know everybody says that, but it’s not true.”

He noted that the iPhone’s video chat feature, Facetime, was also encrypted end-to-end from its debut.

But in a public filing in a separate case in New York, Apple previously acknowledged that forcing it to unlock devices for the FBI would “tarnish the Apple brand,” constituting an undue burden on the company.

In the San Bernardino case, the FBI wants Apple to build a piece of software that would disable a key security feature on shooter Syed Rizwan Farook’s 5c model device, allowing the agency to hack into the device.

A court has ordered Apple to help the FBI, but the tech giant is refusing to comply.

Apple says that because the phone is a newer model with stiffer encryption, it cannot simply provide the agency with the information it wants, as it has in the past. The company itself doesn’t have access to the data and would have to build a new, deliberately insecure operating system to retrieve it.

Cook has characterized that approach as “the software equivalent of cancer,” something it considers too dangerous to create.

“We have put that data out of our own reach, because we believe the contents of your iPhone are none of our business,” he wrote in an open letter explaining the company’s position.

While the government insists the contents of the phone are vital to its investigation into the December attack in California that killed 14, Apple insists that the FBI's request would make millions of its devices vulnerable to hackers. 

The FBI argues its only seeking access to Farook’s phone — and more broadly, that “warrant-proof” encryption is a public danger because it allows criminals to communicate out of the grasp of law enforcement. It has cast its demands as a reasonable part of a terrorism investigation.

Cotton backed up the FBI's demands on Thursday.

“An Edward Snowden-driven marketing strategy doesn’t exempt Apple from its duties as an American company under the law,” Cotton wrote.