Exclusive: Apple CEO Tim Cook Sits Down With David Muir (Extended Interview)

He addressed the high-tech giant's public battle with the FBI over Syed Farook's iPhone.
29:40 | 02/24/16

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Transcript for Exclusive: Apple CEO Tim Cook Sits Down With David Muir (Extended Interview)
And extremists. Had to be here me thinks thanks for having us in your office I think we've ever done and any of your office before I'm not sure I've ever gotten. Well. And in this is an important issue civil timer and they. As we say here you know some of the families of the victims in San Bernardino have now come out in support of the judge's order that apple help the FBI unlock that iPhone. One family reportedly saying were angry and confused as to why apple. Is refusing to do this what would you say to those tonight. David they have our deepest sympathy. What they've been through no one should have to go through. Apple has cooperated would be FBI fully in this case. They came to us and ask us for all the information we had on this. And we gave everything that we happened. We look forward to them out and volunteer engineers to help them in games and numerous suggestions about how they might learn more about tinker case. But this case is not about my phone this case is about the future. What what is at stake here it is can the government. Compel apple. To write software. That we believe would make hundreds of millions of customers vulnerable around the world including the US. And also trample. Civil liberties that are at the basic foundation of what this country McNeil. And you have to write that system in order to unlock that phone yes yes this is so we we have no more information about the song. The only way to get information at least currently the only way we now would be to write a piece of software. That we view as sort of software equivalent of cancer we think it's bad news from right we would never write it we have never written it. And that is what is at stake here you're aware of the polling on this the pew poll this week that showed 51% of Americans say apple should unlock the phone. The new Reuters poll just today showing nearly half understand where you're coming from what this is clearly country divided up this. What he said the folks who say you should write that software you should help unlock the phone will be this this is not about a poll. This is about the future and what I had seen as as people understand. What is at stake here. And increasing numbers support we've hit we have support from politicians. To get them the ones that grab me the most I've gotten thousands of emails since this occurred in the largest single category people are from the military. These are men and women who fight for our freedom and our liberty. And they want us to stand up and be counted on this issue for them are you reading those letters those emails ever I am reading every one. The end are very heartfelt and very emotional. This is this is how we're country. This country is about life liberty and the pursuit of happiness it's about freedom of expression and freedom of speech these are core principles. There. The FBI says it believes that Syed Farooq use that phone to communicate with his wife his accomplice. And interest you struggle at all with the possibility that there could be information on that phone that could reveal other plots other people. Who were involved in planning the San Bernardino attack David if we knew. Oh wait to get the information on the follow that we haven't already give if we neutral way to do this. That would not exposed hundreds and knowing that other people issues. We would obviously do. But again this is not about one phone this is about the future but the central question and I'm curious to keep you up. He could this phone potentially save lives and prevent another terrorist attack information. We don't know that there's any information on the we don't know whether there is are there isn't and the FBI doesn't know what to do is good is that what we do know is. We passed all of the information. That we had on the and to get additional information on it or at least what the FBI would like us to do now would expose hundreds of millions of people to issues. I wanna get to what the FBI director James Koenig has set he said it's not about a slippery slope it's about quote fourteen people who were slaughtered and many more had their lives ruined. Maybe the phone holds include defining more terrorist maybe it doesn't but we can't look the survivors in the high and ourselves if we don't follow. Any possible lead out there to understand where it's coming from I do understand was coming from and produces and he incredibly complex issues. But but it isn't now the future. Think about this if people court compels apple to write this piece of software. Then we didn't up our took place a back door in right now we believe it does put hundreds of millions of customers at risk. In addition people core can ask us to write this piece of software. Think about what else they can ask us to rise may be it's an operating system for surveillance. Maybe a few ability for the law enforcement to turn on the camera. Mean I don't know we are this stops but I do know that this is not. This is not what should be happening in this country. This is not what should be happening in America. If there should be a law. That compels us to do it. It should be passed out in the open and the people of America should get a voice in. The right place for that debate to a core is in congress but you speak about that short tem and John Miller the head of counterterrorism new York city police department has said. If an executive at apple had a member of their family kidnapped they would have their best engineers working on opening that phone and it would have been done a very short amount of time set fair. Now. David it's not like we have information on this phone in the next office over. We have no other information on this nine. The only way we know to get additional information is to write a piece of software that is the software equivalent of cancer. This what is it stay here. Let me ask you this you've invited me to apple for the stories are legendary about new products with plastering pre over them but the locked doors to secrecy and it. Any American company can keep a secret it's apple. To those who might say why didn't the FBI and apple team up far earlier and one of those secret labs and get this done and and no one would have ever had to know. Well. I can't talk about. The tactics of the FBI the chosen what they've done they've chosen to do this out in the public. Four for whatever reasons that it they have. What we think at this point given it is out in the public. Is that we need to stand tall and stand tall on principle. We do our job is to protect our customers. And our customers have incredibly in. On your phones and there is in your house. Our Smartphones are loaded we have. Our intimate conversations are financial data or help records' there also loaded with the location of our kids in many cases. And so it's not just a bell privacy but it's also about public safety. No one would want this kind of information to be available no wine no one I don't believe you would want a master key bill. That would turn hundreds of millions of walks. Even if that he bring the possession. Of the person that you trust the models that he can be stole. That is what this is about how so there's no question you were concerned about a slippery slope about a precedent that would be set. If you did this it David it's clear that it would be a precedent the new York law enforcement authority talking belt having a 175. Phones and there. Other counties across the United States are talking about phones they have. And so it is a slippery slope I don't fearing it is why if you didn't think this would set a precedent if you if you didn't. Believe this would be a slippery slope is this something you're engineers could do and and how quickly could they do it. We've never done it before so I don't know how long tech. Would I do it in a perfect world. Where none of the implications that I'm talking about exist yes we would do it we would obviously do it. But we don't live in a perfect world if you if you look at hacking. Many Americans hundreds of millions of Americans last year had their credit card stole. Mean this is it's a travesty but it's just not that its faults at the location of their family members. There's so much information on the phone egos be on economics and privacy it is also public safety. And so I know people like to frame this argument is privacy vs national security. That is overly simplistic and it is not true this is also about public safety. The Smartphone that you care. Has more information about you want it than probably any other singular device or any other singular place. So this is about protecting the safety of the people who carry. Those iphones that's exactly right and by the way if it is probably just not iPhone. Because if the government could order apple to create such peace off where it could be ordered for anyone else has while. Let me just stop here did you have conversations with the FBI early on about helping them. Find ways to get that information without having to break into the phone. We think we gave that significant advice to them is not a fact one of the things that we suggested was. Take the phone. To a network that it would be familiar with it which is generally the home. Plug again power it often. Leave it overnight in some so that it would back up it's a that you have a current backup. I own backs up to the iCloud vaccination the I Clough. Which makes a you can think of it as making a picture. Of almost everything on the phone not everything but almost every did they do that. Unfortunately. In the days the early days of the investigation. An FBI FBI directed the county. To resell. When that is done. The phone will no longer back up to the clock on. And so I I wish they would have contacted us earlier so that that would not advocate how crucial was that missed opportunity. You know it's. Assuming the plowed back up was still lawn and there's no reason to believe that it wasn't the and it's very crucial. The FBI has acknowledged that they change the apple like the on the phone. And and therefore missed the opportunity to sync up with the Ike out. But it's their contention that there were still information data on the phone the iPhone that they have in their hands is that possible. Would there would be information on the phone sure there's some information on the phone I don't know what India's. Audits kinds of things that you would be able to find out from other places are what calls were night. Where were they made to. We're messages sent across the cellular network. All of this kind of information is available without going into the phone could there be additional information on the phone may be. Maybe yes maybe no I don't know and even the FBI has acknowledged they're not sure yes. I think I think in that case in that area there is no dispute. To some people at home listening to this argument who understand where you're coming from who might say this was a terrorist attack on US soil. And that if ever there was a case that apple would make some sort of exception. That this might be that moment do you really want to plant the flag on privacy. And safety on cited for rooks iPhone. I think safety of the public is incredibly important. Safety of our kids' safety or families. Is very important. The protection of people's data is incredibly important and so the tradeoff here is we know that doing depths. Could expose people to incredible vulnerabilities. This is not something that we would create. This is what this would be bad for America it would also set a process. That I believe many people in America would be offended. And so when you think about those which are known. Compared to something that might. Be fair. I believe we are making the right choice but in your quiet moments. Do you have any concern that you might be able to prevent a terrorist attack by breaking in of that phone David some things are hard. And something's awry. In some things about. This is one of those. And in this case you believe there are some things that you should never be created racked in do. Think about this it is in our view the software equivalent of cancer. Is this something they should be created. Technology and can do so many things. But there are many things technology should never be allowed to do in the way you're not allow. Is to not create. The White House said this week that the FBI's request is quote limited in scope. Limited in scope to agree with that and have you talked the president on this I have not talked to president I will talk to president. Do I think it's limited now. I think this is not about the small. This is about the future and so I do see it as it as a precedent. That should not be done in this country or any country. This this this is about civil liberties. And is about people's ability to protect themselves. If we taking prescription away from the good people. The only people overtake approach and wipe the only people will be affected are the good people. The bad people encryption when apple doesn't own encryption. Encryption is readily available in every country in the world. As an African US government sponsors and funds encryption in many cases and so if we limit it in some wise. The people that will harbor. Are the good people not the bad people they will find it in you mentioned that you would be talking with the president what we tell. I'm going to to try to make the arguments that made you. And and asked for his help in getting this morning better path. Because I strongly believe that the best of America comes out when we do all. But when you see gridlock in Washington convinced. Since the kind of mission they can tackle right now. I hope so and in optimistically. I think so. Because people care deeply about civil liberties in Washington they cared deeply about safety they cared deeply about national security. So all of these issues are things that all of this her. And in so yeah I do believe. You have talked to the president before on the issues yeah privacy and security. Are you disappointed there wasn't more of a dialogue with the administration before the swift action from the Justice Department yes. You wish there was more done yes. At leadership and we just filing. We found out about the filing from the process. And I'd I don't think that's the way the railroad should be wrong and I don't think that something so important to this country. Should be handled and that's why. Let me ask. You brought up encryption and I think that's a really important point for the people at home. To understand. The evolution of encryption with the iPhone. You had a previous operating system when the iPhone. Where law enforcement authorities have pointed out they could extract the data from the phone. They can no longer do that and that was a conscious decision by apple was at non Q was it if you look at the last few years. Hacking has become increasingly common place it is very difficult to secure data. And the everyday person can't do they look for apple to help them do it mean you can you need to look no farther than the government. Which has had some of the worst breaches of all in this case. And so yes security gets better with every software release that we pass out. Encryption gets more advanced it has to you to stay one step ahead of the bad guy so it's not a mistake that we can't get in the side for its phone. If we're not we didn't do it for that reason David we did it to protect our customers. But yes a side effect here is it means that apple can't get into a higher. Because think about like this if you put led to war in a house it's a lot easier to get in the house. It doesn't matter whether it's locked or not. You can meet somebody can get enough and so our simple view is you encrypt Indy again. And you don't keep and he and so the people they concede communication. Are the people on either end of that communication but let's stick with that metaphor and to the people who say we want just to door to this house site and for -- iPhone. Is that possible knows that did there's no such thing as a back door for the good guys. The bad guys will find it two's. Meaning. Your concern is for the millions of customers who walk around with their own data they're families data on their phones yes I am. Anything keep in mind this data includes the location of their kids the location of your family. This isn't just about privacy all of us are very important it's also about public safety you're aware of the people watching this who understand your argument. But who say in this case that's what's at terrorists iPhone. But we decide. David we have no sympathy for terrorists. That in my view they left their rights. Back when they decided to do all things when in the plains. This isn't about we're not protecting their privacy. We're protecting the privacy of everyone now we're protecting the public safety of everyone now that it's what this is now. If they left their rights at the door why not break and other phone. Because doing that exposes everyone now it's that is the reason developing pieces fall where. Develops a piece of software that is so power well. It has the ability. On law or the capability a lot older iphones. The issue because your argument is that master key can then be thrown out. You it's not like a physical a physical he pitch for -- the software key and of course with other. Parts of the government asking for more and more cases and more more cases that's fought for would stay living. And it would be turning to cry and you can imagine the target that would be on that that. That piece I'm not saying government abuse that I don't I don't agree that going case by case is the right approach. But there's an actress in the world. And you don't look need to look further than what has happened to our own government millions of people have had. There it help personal information stolen by hackers. As you know this has become an issue in the race for president. Donald Trump is calling for a boycott of apple. Until quote Tim Cook unlocks that phone trump adding that the phone is owned by the government by San Bernardino County. Does he have a point here. You know David. In a few weeks apple turned forty. Apple. Could have only been started there. We've created one point nine million jobs now in the United States. And we had tens of millions of customers who use our products. We work for Vietnam. And we love deeply our country. But what what's at stake here is should we be compel. To write software. That people leave would make vulnerable hundreds of millions of people. And trample on civil liberties that is what is its day in the heart warming emails I'm getting from military. From policemen from all across America tells me there's a fair number of people that believe as we do and even the people that don't. Believe that in our democracy. They should be out in the open and discussed. Not under some kind of you've done in the back room somewhere but you hear that from the Republican from more from Donald Trump boycott apple until Tim Cook unlocks the phone. A lot of presidential candidates have been asked how old they publicly talked with the tech community about protecting this country. Is that the right route insane boycott apple that the best thing David is America's strongest when we all come together. And so there you are great people India beyond and the DOJ Indian government. Incredible. Public servants there's also some really Smart people and technology. And there are some really great people focused on civil liberties all of these groups need to come together we've recommended a commission. I would be okay with it being called something else are done in a different why. But the key is for all of the key people to come together and really think through these issues but not just look at Juan. Look at all of them and recognized. That at the core of this. Are some of the founding principles of our country. Which we should leave to take on huge pause to trample law. So there's a boycott a way to come together. You know I think a democracy. Is messy sometimes. But this this and I love democracy that is who we bar. I think the best thing to do is to discuss and collaborate and work together or whatever the solution. Help people at home understand what you mean when you say the FBI wanted to create. A separate system. That would get you into that phone right now they have they have an iPhone. The passcode on the front like we all use to get into or iphones. And after a certain number of tries it just auto races the phone. What they want it is they want us to develop a new operating system. That takes out this these security precautions including the precaution that after ten tries to somebody has. Erase all data after Tia and they want that to not be in there. And then they want a ability to. Go through a number of passwords. At the speed of a modern computer a computer would do that figure out here don't do that and so that's what they're asking for. We believe that is a very dangerous operating system. Because once people know that that exists you say. It's out of the bag yet that is what think about this for a minute. If you knew or did not view but it's at the one of the back guys knew that that existed. Think about the target that is everybody would want that operating system. Because you could get in it has the potential to get into any. This is not something that should be created. Which takes me back to that question about. Middle ground. Was there an opportunity missed or apple could have quietly met with the FBI behind closed doors in one of your many labs here. Apple being the best at keeping secrets. Around. To have come up with a solution long before this moment we David we continue. Two look for things in this case. We are we're not giving op. What we're what we're objecting to is building something that's bad for people. Is there an opportunity I think it I think. The best things will happen when people work together that the best way to know what was on this borrow. Would have been to have the club. That is the best way and unfortunately an error was made and that is possible. Have you been surprised. A house with the action has been from the Justice Department given your previous dialogue when this administration yes. I was surprised. That we were contacted. I've that I wasn't contacted personally and told they were doing. And it had changed the outcome. I don't know how I don't know but I think if you and I are working together for a long time. And I've decided to to you. File a lawsuit. I feel like I owe it to you to tell you that. You personal. And that didn't happen here and I'm disappointed whether it however it doesn't affect. Our willingness. And desire and desire to cooperate fully. To discuss the future but we shouldn't be but I'd I do want them to withdraw this case because this case is bad for America. How we answer the order this week. We will answer in say what we object in real we will await. The court's decision. There is reporting that writing computer code the code that that it would take to crate the system to get into that phone should be protected. Under the First Amendment. Is that part of the case. Debt that's up to the lawyers. Honestly. It it's not at the primary. It's not my primary. My primary focus he uses as I've said before is on the customer that would then be vulnerable. And the trampling on civil liberties that is much I'm curious to him did you ever think that you find yourself at the center of such a crucial national debate now. This is. This is not. A position. We would like. It is a theory on comparable position. To oppose you government and something. Doesn't feel. And to oppose it on something where we are advocating for civil liberties which they are supposed to protect. It is incredibly. Wrong. But this is where we find ourselves and for all so for all of those people who want to have a voice but bureau Friday. We are standing. And we are standing up for our customers because protecting them we view is ours now. And and I hope and I think I'm very optimistic. I think we will come together. And I don't I don't know what will happen but I think we will come together and there will be 11. Path forward that the US always comes out of these things well. And bit but I feel very Google it. That the debate is going on even when people disagree with office. It is good that the debate is happening that's what makes this country so special. And preview. Personally has this been the biggest challenge. In in being CO. Faced. I faced a lot of challenges but I've I've never felt. Through the government apparatus. Or. And in so yes I would say businesses. Right up there. But it's not my sole focus by any mean we're focused on. On making great wrong. And I heard you say there's great hope still that you can come together on this you don't know how it will happen but you hope it will happen. But are you prepared to take this all the way to the Supreme Court. We would be prepared to take this issue hold the line yet because I think it's that important for America. They should not be decided. Court backcourt like war if you decide that that it's okay to force companies to do something that they think is bad for hundreds of millions of people. Than you think about this for a minute in this case is an awful. There is no worse case this. But there may be a judge in a different history that feels that this case should apply to a divorce case. There may be one in the next state over the things that should apply that tax. Another state over much of a plan a robbery. And so you begin does say wait a minute. This isn't how this should happen if there is going to be a law. Then it should be done Allen in the open for people so their voices heard Revere representatives in congress and if congress decided. But there's this small category this was a terrorists iPhone. If congress decided that the American people signed off on that. And entertainment at it now let me be clear at the end of the day we have to follow the law. I just like everybody else we have to follow the law what we're what is going on right now is we're getting we're having our voices be horror. And I would encourage everyone that has a voice on it or that wants to have a voice and wants to have an opinion to make sure their voices humor. That's a record. And state typically appreciate thank you for your candor.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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