I may be misunderstanding the technology in view here (feel free to correct me, I make no pretense to being a techie), but is not the underlying assumption of this discussion that Apple has the capacity to hack its own OS? Everyone here is saying: “Don’t do it; don’t give it away.” That means that Apple has “it” to give away. So, if that assumption is correct, then, when we take the “don’t share” position, are we not also admitting that we’re OK with a multi-billion dollar multi-national corporation (one of the biggest on the planet) having that technology, but we’re not OK with the FBI (the Federal government) having that technology? I’m making an observation, not an argument. My point is that if we’re making a choice about whom to trust (Apple vs the FBI), we should have good reasons for trusting one or not trusting the other. It would be a mistake to assume uncritically that any organization with economic or political power (in this instance, either Apple or the FBI) always acts with benign benevolence. Yet, life and culture function because we’re willing (out of necessity) to operate with an effective level of trust. By contrast we will be immobilized if because of extreme cynicism we completely withhold trust. I think it’s worth remembering that if with great conviction we say “no” to the FBI, we are de facto saying “yes” to Apple. To what degree does the trust we are extending to Apple today reflect an informed, reasonable, and justifiable confidence?
That said, is there a down side to Apple offering to provide a service to the FBI on a case by case basis? Apple could extract the data yet retain control of the encryption. The caveat, of course, is that Apple would need to adopt some criteria for determining whether or not it would provide this service.