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Americans' Opinions Are Divided Over Whether Apple Should Unlock Shooter's Phone


Let's hear what iPhone users think of the legal fight over access to their phones. Apple is resisting a court order to unlock the phone used by one of the San Bernardino shooting suspects. The FBI says it wants access to just that one phone. The company says that's the same as opening them all, including the phones of people who spoke with Frank Morris of our member station KCUR.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Eight, nine, 10 and 10 makes 20. Enjoy your show.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Thank you, ma'am.

FRANK MORRIS, BYLINE: At the annual RV show in Topeka, Kan., retirees and younger families are strolling past rows of camper trailers to the sound of country music radio under American flags. Mike Glasgow says he doesn't think the government should be able to force Apple to help it defeat the iPhone's security.

MIKE GLASGOW: I mean, they can't run the post office or health care or anything else, so I surely don't want their hands on my phone.

MORRIS: A lot of people here though just aren't quite sure what to make of another situation where privacy and physical safety seem to be at odds.

GEORGIA BONNER: People need their privacy. I mean, that's the way it is. And we have terrorists that are going around killing everybody. So this is one of those where there's a lot of gray area, so I don't know.

MORRIS: Georgia Bonner's concerned about her iPhone-carrying grandkids. Tim McCoy doesn't want the phone in his pocket compromised.

TIM MCCOY: I understand both sides of it. I kind of like Apple's position better because once you open that door, you know, it's - you can't close it.

BETTY VIEUX: It's kind of iffy and scary. They're already hacking everything all around.

MORRIS: Betty Vieux says cracking iPhone security would just make matters worse. This came to a head last week when a judge ordered Apple to help unlock an iPhone used by Syed Farook, one of the shooters who killed 14 people and wounded 20 in San Bernardino. The FBI can't get into the phone. Apple so far refused to help.

GREG SMITH: Under the circumstances, I just feel that we should do everything in our - within our power, whether it be Apple or anybody else that would help provide whatever we need to keep this - keep America safe.

MORRIS: Greg Smith says phone privacy just isn't that big of a deal to him personally. Dave Melcher feels the same.

DAVE MELCHER: I ain't got nothing that I don't care if everybody knows (laughter) you know? I -you know, they - whatever they want, they can have as long as it keeps us safe.

MORRIS: Sixty miles east in Kansas City, Mo., people are sipping freshly-roasted coffee and artisanal cocktails in a place called Thou Mayest. Few here think Apple should acquiesce on privacy.

NASH KILLSPRAY: I think what Apple has done is very brave and reassuring to people who think that, you know, bigger corporations are willing to fight for the little guy, you know what I'm saying?

ELAINE EASON: And I think that's one of the biggest draws to Apple's brand is that they're known for their top-notch security.

MORRIS: That's a musician calling himself Nash Killspray and Elaine Eason. They like Apple's stand on principle. But Elizabeth Sell sees something more pragmatic going on.

ELIZABETH SELL: Because what Apple really cares about is losing customers and what the FBI cares about is keeping people safe.

MORRIS: Most people here think the motivations involved are messier. And Bill Holzhueter doesn't think the resolution to this conflict is going to be any too transparent, either.

BILL HOLZHUETER: What passes the courts will be one thing. But what the deals are actually reached between the intelligence agencies and the high-ups at Apple will probably be something we'll have to learn 50 years from now in a declassified document.

MORRIS: Meantime, people across the country are talking about what scares them the most - terrorists, hackers in their own government. For NPR News, I'm Frank Morris in Kansas City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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