Trump’s tweet came amid the investigation into the fatal shooting of three Americans by a Saudi Air Force officer at the U.S. Naval Station in Pensacola, Florida, last month, which Attorney General William Barr called “an act of terrorism” on Monday.
Trump revealed that his government had been "helping Apple all the time" on trade and yet he was turning more orange over how the outfit refused to unlock phones used by killers, drug dealers and other violent criminal elements.
The US president said on Twitter: “They will have to step up to the plate and help our great Country, NOW!”
Jobs' Mob claims it cannot access data that is encrypted with a passcode and stored on an iPhone and that it would have to build a specific tool for doing so, known in the tech industry as a “backdoor”. The company can and does, however, hand over data stored on its cloud storage servers to law enforcement officials, which often includes backups of iPhones, including iMessages.
Earlier on Monday, Barr called on Apple to help the Federal Bureau of Investigation unlock two iPhones involved in the Pensacola case.
Apple said it had responded to seven separate legal requests from federal investigators in December, starting the day of the shooting.
The company said it turned over “many gigabytes” of data to investigators, including iCloud backups, account information and transactional data for multiple accounts. Apple said the FBI did not request help unlocking phones until 6 January with a request for a second iPhone, sent on 8 January.
“A federal judge has authorised the Department of Justice to access the contents of the dead terrorist’s phones. Apple-designed these phones and implemented their encryption. It’s a simple, ‘front-door’ request: Will Apple help us get into the shooter’s phones or not?” Kerri Kupec, a Department of Justice spokeswoman, said in a statement on Tuesday.
In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union called Trump’s demand “dangerous and unconstitutional” and said it would weaken the security of millions of iPhones.
“There is simply no way for Apple, or any other company, to provide the FBI access to encrypted communications without also providing it to authoritarian foreign governments and weakening our defences against criminals and hackers”, the ACLU said.
The devices used by the Pensacola shooter were older iPhone 5 and iPhone 7 models and cited cybersecurity experts as saying commercial firms could likely crack them.