Skip to main content

If the FBI wins, Apple’s engineers may quit rather than break iPhone encryption

Image used with permission by copyright holder
A win in court for the FBI doesn’t necessarily mean the government will get what it wants. As the hearing date looms closer, several Apple engineers discussed their options should a decision be made against Apple, and it turns out some would rather quit than hand over access to the government.

The New York Times interviewed several current and former Apple employees, including those working in the mobile and security division, and found their thoughts to resemble Apple’s argument against the Department of Justice’s demands — that it infringes on their freedom of speech. The controversy erupted after a court ordered the Cupertino company to create a backdoor for the FBI to access the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone.

Although it would be a stunning act of civil disobedience if Apple’s engineers refused to cooperate, it’s not like they would be out of a job for good if they quit working at Apple, as Apple’s former senior product manager told The New York Times.

“If someone attempts to force them to work on something that’s outside their personal values, they can expect to find a position that’s a better fit somewhere else,” Window Snyder said, now the chief security officer at Fastly.

If Apple lost the case and was forced to create “GovtOS,” and its employees quit left and right, it may have a hard time completing that task — which means the FBI would be in a conundrum as well.

“It’s an independent culture and a rebellious one,” said Jean-Louis Gassée, a former engineering manager at Apple, said to The New York Times. “If the government tries to compel testimony or action from these engineers, good luck with that.”

Should the time come for Apple to create a team to build “GovtOS,” Apple’s employees apparently already have a “good idea” on who those defecting employees will be. Of course, if Apple wins, it may never come to that.

The hearing is scheduled for March 22, a day after Apple’s media event that will showcase the company’s highly-anticipated new products.

Editors' Recommendations

Julian Chokkattu
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Julian is the mobile and wearables editor at Digital Trends, covering smartphones, fitness trackers, smartwatches, and more…
Is the iPhone 15 Pro Max camera as good as Apple says? I found out
The Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max and iPhone 14 Pro seen from the back.

Apple iPhone 14 Pro (left) and iPhone 15 Pro Max Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The iPhone 15 Pro Max has the best camera on an iPhone ever. At least, that’s how Apple made it sound during the launch event, so is it true? To rightfully claim this title, it doesn’t need to beat the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra or any other Android phone; it needs to beat the iPhone 14 Pro. Until very recently, it had the best camera on an iPhone ever.

Read more
iPhone 15 Pro overheating? Apple just issued a patch to fix it
Someone holding the Natural Titanium iPhone 15 Pro Max.

If your iPhone 15 Pro has been running hotter than expected, then a new patch released by Apple on Wednesday should resolve the problem.

According to Apple, iOS 17.0.3, “addresses an issue that may cause iPhone to run warmer than expected,” while also providing the usual bug fixes and security updates.

Read more
iPhone 15 Pro overheating? Apple is (finally) on the case
Renders of the iPhone 15 Pro next to the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

If your new iPhone 15 Pro is still running hotter than expected, then don’t fret as Apple is onto it.

Soon after the new handset started landing in the hands of customers three weeks ago, many quickly found that it seemed to heat up way more than expected.

Read more