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Trump calls for Apple to unlock phones of suspected criminals

(Image credit: Image Credit: Pio3 / Shutterstock)

US President Donald Trump has taken to Twitter to express his dismay after Apple declined his government’s request to unlock iPhones used in a recent mass shooting.

“We are helping Apple all of the time on TRADE and so many other issues, and yet they refuse to unlock phones used by killers, drug dealers and other violent criminal elements,” Trump tweeted.

“They will have to step up to the plate and help our great Country, NOW! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN,” he added.

In December, three US sailors were killed during the shooting at a Naval air base in Pensacola, Florida. The shooting, perpetrated by member of the Royal Saudi Air Force Mohammed Alshamrani, has been referred to as an “act of terrorism” by Attorney General William Barr.

Trump’s impassioned tweet echoes views expressed by the Attorney General, who also said that Apple has provided no “substantive assistance” to the FBI.

However, Apple disputes its alleged failure to assist with the Pensacola investigation. As reported by The Verge, the company says it has been working closely with the FBI, providing account information and data backed up to iCloud servers from the Pensacola phones.

“Our responses to their many requests since the attack have been timely, thorough and are ongoing,” Apple said in a statement. “The FBI only notified us on January 6th that they needed additional assistance - a month after the attack occurred.”

Trump’s tweet represents the latest in a long line of clashes between the US Justice Department and the technology giant. Most notably, Apple refused to help unlock an attacker’s iPhone after a shooting in San Bernardino resulted in the death of 14 people in 2015.

Whether Trump’s tweet sets the stage for further and more energetic disputes between tech giants and the US Justice Department over data privacy remains to be seen.