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Woz says you can't trust government, denies Apple case is terrorism-related

Technically Incorrect: In an interview, the Apple co-founder staunchly defends Apple's position with respect to a court's order for the company to hack a phone used by one of the San Bernardino terrorists.

2 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


Steve Wozniak. Forthright as always.

Bloomberg screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Yes, but what does Steve Wozniak think?

Ever since Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that the company would fight a court order to hack the iPhone 5C linked to last year's massacre in San Bernardino, California, many in the tech world have kept silent.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai was one of the few to offer comments, albeit guarded.

Steve Wozniak isn't known for his guardedness. So when he gave an interview to CNBC on Thursday, he was extremely open about how he felt.

The Apple co-founder forcefully declared he was against any backdoors in phones.

"I believe that Apple's brand recognition and value and profits is largely based on an item called trust," he said. "Trust means you believe somebody. You believe you're buying a phone with encryption."

He expanded upon his views about trust.

"You can't trust who is in power," he said. "It's like believing the authority and police wherever they go. Generally, when they write the rules, they're right when they're wrong."

In essence, Woz doesn't seem convinced that the authorities are telling the whole story.

"Terrorism is just a phony word being used," he said when asked whether exceptions should be made for acts of terrorism. "The case involved actually with Apple right now had to be with -- I believe it was a shooting or a murder or something. It wasn't terrorism. You know what is terrorism? It's just a deeper crime."

He added that "the word 'terrorist' has been used way too often to scare people."

At heart, though, like Cook, he fears creep. If Apple performs this hack once, then it can be not only done again but also obtained by other, possibly unfriendly nations.

"I'm talking about the general case that goes much deeper than this case. And that is the FBI wants a permanent backdoor built in. And I just think that's wrong," he said.

In buying a phone, he said he didn't want "companies playing tricks behind me in the background. Even Google marketing to me is something Apple doesn't do."

However, when asked whether he thought Apple would capitulate to the courts, he was not optimistic.

"My hunch is yes," he admitted. "But I don't know. I don't know. I mean, if I were there I might fight it quite vigilantly."

Yes, I think he might.