Tech: Oracle founder Larry Ellison criticizes Apple's decision to fight the FBI's request to hack San Bernardino shooter's iPhone

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Oracle founder, CTO and executive chairman Larry Ellison

In a Fox interview, Oracle's Larry Ellison called Tim Cook's decision to fight the FBI over its request that Apple hack the iPhone belong to a shooter "bizarre."

  • In an interview on Fox, Oracle founder, CTO, and executive chairman Larry Ellison criticized Apple's decision to fight the FBI's request to hack an iPhone used by a shooter from the 2015 San Bernardino attack, calling it "bizarre."
  • Ellison said that this was an example of "political distortions" that can exist in tech companies.
  • In general, Ellison said he believes that many giant Silicon Valley companies often respond to political issues in a way that younger employees would prefer them to respond.

After 14 people were killed in the San Bernardino mass shootings in 2015, Apple refused to help the FBI hack into the shooter’s iPhone, calling it a dangerous precedent for the government to make such demands on companies. Tim Cook even went so far as to say the FBI wanted Apple to create "the software equivalent of cancer" in order to gain access to the phone.

In an interview with Fox Business Network's Maria Bartiromo, Oracle founder, CTO, and executive chairman Larry Ellison, called this "bizarre." Ellison was responding to Bartiromo’s comment that Silicon Valley tech giants have become increasingly influential and are now in the "crosshairs of the U.S. government."

Ellison said that many of the giant Silicon Valley companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple tend to respond to political issues in a way their younger employees would prefer them to respond.

"Apple will decide if the phone’s going to be locked or unlocked," Ellison said. "Apple, not the courts – not our courts, but Apple would make that decision, is just bizarre."

At the time, Apple CEO Tim Cook posted a public letter on the company's decision, saying, "The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge. Opposing this order is not something we take lightly. We feel we must speak up in the face of what we see as an overreach by the U.S. government."

FBI agents had previously called Cook “a hypocrite” for the decision. The FBI later dropped the court order for Apple and hired a third party to hack the iPhone. Ellison told Bartiromo that this example shows some of the “political distortions” that can exist in tech companies.

Ellison is not the only tech company founder to have criticized Apple's decision to fight the FBI's request. Microsoft founder Bill Gates previously said he didn't share the belief "that even a clear mass-murdering criminal's communication should never be available to the government."

Ellison also spoke on his views on the political decisions of other tech companies, such as Google's new AI policies regarding military contracts.

Apple did not immediately respond to request for comment at the time of publication.

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