Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, kicked off his company’s product event on Monday by addressing an elephant in the room: Apple’s legal battle with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“Before we start today I would like to address something I know is on the minds of many people this morning,” he said solemnly. “We need to decide as nation how much power the government should have over our data and over our privacy.”
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The chief executive reiterated Apple’s (AAPL) commitment to fighting the U.S. Justice Department over helping the FBI access the data stored on an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters.
“We believe strongly that we have a responsibility to help you protect your data and protect your privacy. We owe it to our customers, and we owe it to our country,” Cook said on stage. “This is an issue that impacts all of us, and we will not shrink from this responsibility.”
Cook prefaced his comments by mentioning that Apple had recently reached a major milestone of 1 billion of its devices being in use worldwide. “With that comes significant responsibility,” he said.
“I’ve been humbled and deeply grateful for the outpouring of support we’ve received from Americans across country from all walks of life,” he added. “We did not expect to be in this position, at odds with our own government.”
Law enforcement investigators meanwhile want Apple to develop a software tool that will remove security barriers the company builds into its handsets. They claim that they risk “going dark,” not being able to perase terrorism or criminal suspects’ personal data.
Critics contend, on the other hand, that government surveillance has never been easier or more prevalent.
Cook’s statements reflect what he has said in the past about the dispute, including in a recent Time cover story and exclusive interview. His comments come a day prior to Apple and the FBI’s court hearing in Riverside, Calif., where both sides will argue their positions in the pending case.
To catch up with what happened at Apple’s event Monday, see our live coverage here.