In the debate between Apple and the FBI, the software giant has filed an appeal to dismiss the the court order. On page 13, there’s a very interesting section discussing what it would take to develop the custom version of iOS that would allow the government to brute force passwords on someone’s phone (which has come to be known as “GovtOS”):
The compromised operating system that the government demands would require significant resources and effort to develop. Although it is difficult to estimate, because it has never been done before, the design, creation, validation, and deployment of the software likely would necessitate six to ten Apple engineers and employees dedicating a very substantial portion of their time for a minimum of two weeks, and likely as many as four weeks.
Up to ten engineers for up to four weeks, Apple believe GovtOS will take. I have to wonder what I would do if I were given this assignment. I consider it similar in some respects to what must have gone through the heads of Volkswagen engineers that were asked to create a way to fake emission reports: it’s immoral and it’s my job. Unique to the Apple case, however, is the addendum that it might be illegal to not do it. I do not envy the engineers that get this assignment should Apple be compelled to create GovtOS, and I imagine that it would be given to their most trusted and senior members.
I’d like to say that I’d resign in that position, but the fact is, with a court order, if someone chooses not to do it, they will be replaced with someone that will. And a project of this fragility deserves to be in the most trustworthy and capable hands. Having said that, resignation as civil disobedience would weigh heavily on my conscience.