Cotton squares off against Apple CEO

Cotton squares off against Apple CEO
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Hawkish Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - All US adults now eligible for COVID vaccines Parade of 2024 GOP hopefuls court House conservatives Hillicon Valley: Biden administration sanctions Russia for SolarWinds hack, election interference MORE is pushing back against Apple CEO Tim Cook’s opposition to “backdoors” that would ensure the government has access to a suspect’s encrypted data.

A day after Cook reiterated his support for strong encryption on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” the Arkansas Republican said that the head of the world’s most profitable company “omitted critical facts.” 


"As a society, we don't allow phone companies to design their systems to avoid lawful, court-ordered searches," Cotton said in a statement on Monday morning.

“If we apply a different legal standard to companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook, we can expect them to become the preferred messaging services of child pornographers, drug traffickers, and terrorists alike — which neither these companies nor law enforcement want."

“Our society needs to address this urgent challenge now before more lives are lost or shattered," he added.

On “60 Minutes” on Sunday, Cook attempted to explain why Apple offers tough encryption that cannot be broken by anyone, even police with a warrant.

The same backdoors that the FBI may use to target a suspected terrorist or child pornographer could also be used by a repressive government, foreign intelligence agency or activist group like Anonymous, he warned.

“The reality is if you put a backdoor in, that backdoor's for everybody — for good guys and bad guys,” Cook maintained. 

It is the latest back-and-forth in an increasingly heated dispute over tech companies’ ability to use strong encryption. The debate has ramped up in recent weeks, following increasingly dire warnings from law enforcement officials who say, in the words of New York Police Commissioner William Bratton, that they have "gone blind." 

Officials have claimed that the terrorists who carried out November’s attack in Paris had some encrypted messaging applications on their phones. Testifying before Congress this month, FBI Director James Comey said that the gunmen involved in the May attack in Garland, Texas, sent 109 encrypted messages, which the government has never been able to read. 

After months of deliberation, the Obama administration earlier this year decided against advocating for new legislation to force companies to develop ways to give the government access to people’s messages.