Apple's engineers have joined the struggle between the company and the federal government over whether or not a court order can force Apple to de-encrypt an iPhone. If Apple loses, multiple engineers would resist building a backdoor to iPhone encryption and some would quit their jobs, the New York Times reported on Thursday.
Reporters from the Times interviewed more than a half-dozen current and former Apple employees, including security engineers and executives involved in the development of the company's mobile products.
"Some say they may balk at the work, while others may even quit their high-paying jobs rather than undermine the security of the software they have already created," the Times wrote.
But the U.S. Department of Justice has attempted to refute Apple's claims in its own filings. Not only would creating an encryption backdoor pose an insignificant drain on the company's resources, it argued, but a private company should not decide whether or not the government can access encrypted data in a criminal investigation.
Apple has said in its court filings that it would take months to break the encryption of the iPhone used by an attacker in a mass shooting in San Bernadino, Calif. last year. Not only would doing so create a burden for the company, but it would also represent a slippery slope for future iPhone encryption cases, Apple CEO Tim Cook argued.
The engineers' stance as reported by the Times adds a new wrinkle to the encryption debate. If the FBI prevails and there is a mass defection of Apple engineers, the court case could be significantly prolonged. The DOJ's filings claim that the FBI cannot easily unlock the iPhone without Apple's help.