Apple chief executive, Tim Cook, is reported to have lashed out at senior White House officials during a disagreement over encryption and granting the government backdoor access.
The Apple boss met with US administration officials and heads of intelligence agencies, including the NSA and homeland security, to discuss a variety of counterterrorism issues with representatives from Facebook, Twitter, Cloudflare, Google, Drop Box, Microsoft, and LinkedIn.
People briefed on the meeting told The Intercept that Cook criticised the White House for suggesting that the encryption technology being used by these companies should have ‘backdoors’ built in, to combat terrorist use of encrypted communications.
He called on the government to deny repeated requests from FBI director James Comey for special access for law enforcement to the company’s platforms.
An exchange between Cook and Attorney General Loretta Lynch is said to have become heated after Lynch pushed the need for a “balance” between privacy and national security.
Despite growing pressure on tech companies to sacrifice encryption for the sake of public safety, Cook has remained steadfast in his opposition to allowing government access to Apple’s services.
In June 2015 he publically defended strong-encryption in a speech to Washington. In it he said: “Some in Washington are hoping to undermine the ability of ordinary citizens to encrypt their data. We think this is incredibly dangerous. If you put a key under the mat for the cops, a burglar can find it, too.”
A few months after this the company refused to comply with a court order to hand over data sent between two iPhones on iMessage because of iMessage’s encryption.
The news of the clash sheds light on the growing tensions between technology companies’ stance in opposition to governments and intelligence agencies. In the wake of the Paris attacks Apple teamed up with Microsoft, Google, Samsung, Twitter, Facebook and 56 other technology companies to reject calls for weakening encryption.