The U.S. government wants to be able to unlock your iPhone; any iPhone. Why? Terrorists use smartphones to communicate with other terrorists and being able to intercept and unlock those communications may, in theory, stop crimes before they start.
Christie Smythe on the problem:
Encryption — the coding of information into gibberish, indecipherable without the password — and other protections are becoming so formidable that even criminal investigators with search warrants can be locked out of a smartphone. The U.S. has forced devices open by entering “every possible pass code,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Saritha Komatireddy said during a hearing in the Brooklyn case. But that’s risky. Some iPhones erase all data if the wrong code is entered 10 times.
Apple and Google do not keep a ‘master key’ which would unlock an encrypted smartphone. Government authorities want such a key.
The problem with that kind of thinking isn’t too obvious but it is distinct. Encryption comes in many forms and if governments had backdoor access to iPhones and Android phones then terrorists would use something else, or, simply use an encrypted application instead and that would have the same effect.