San Bernardino kin to Apple: Open up that iPhone

Mandy Pifer, whose boyfriend was one of the victims who perished in the San Bernardino terror attacks, has a message for Apple CEO Tim Cook—who is currently trying to fend off an order to hack one of the perpetrators' iPhone.

"I am angry. [While] I understand there are shareholders and that he is the CEO of a very large company, you can't put a price on a person's life," Pifer told CNBC's "Fast Money" this week.

She lost her boyfriend Shannon Johnson in the mass shooting, and believes that Apple can and should be doing more to provide closure to those directly impacted by the tragedy. Currently, the tech giant is pushing back hard against a court order to unlock the shooter's iPhone, in a case that has touched off a furious debate about privacy and data security. Many observers say the battle could eventually land in the Supreme Court.

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For its part, Apple claims that the government's attempt to force the iPhone maker to hack the phone would constitute a severe breach of privacy. It's an argument that frustrated Pifer, whose boyfriend died shielding a fellow co-worker at the Inland Regional Center on December 2nd, 2015.

"He gave his life to protect those he cared about," Pifer explained in an off-camera interview with CNBC. "I'd ask Tim Cook if his response would be different if it was somebody whom he loved that was killed," she said. "—Now, if opening one phone can help provide answers, then yes I want that phone opened."

Apple did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment.

Mandy Pifer with boyfriend Shannon Johnson
Source: Mandy Pifer
Mandy Pifer with boyfriend Shannon Johnson
"If opening one phone can help provide answers, then yes I want that phone opened." -Mandy Pifer on if Apple should assist the FBI

The showdown between Apple and the FBI has placed one of the world's most popular smart devices at the heart of a high-stakes legal battle, one that may have a huge impact on data security.

The FBI has cited the All Writs Act, an obscure, centuries-old law, as part of its argument for why Apple must comply with unlocking terror suspect Syed Farook's iPhone. Cook categorized the request as "chilling" and has warned that creating a backdoor for this iPhone could jeopardize the safety and privacy of all Apple product users.

On Wednesday, a number of tech companies in Silicon Valley, including Twitter, AirBNB, eBay, LinkedIn and Square, filed a joint brief supporting Apple. The filing argues that the government does not have the authority to force Apple to re-write its software. The New York Times and Washington Post have also voiced views in support of Apple.

Additionally, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, a privacy advocate on the Senate Intelligence Committee, added that "This is a terrible precedent. If the FBI can force Apple to do this, it could compel all sorts of other U.S. companies to change their products to serve the government rather than their customers."

Amid the legal wrangling, those whose loved ones were killed in the terror attack are now taking sides in one of the most complex legal cases of the 21st century. In addition to Pifer, Ryan Reyes has also been openly critical of Apple's position. Reyes recently penned an op-Ed in Pride Magazine entitled "My Partner died in San Bernardino and I want to know more, Tim Cook."

"When Apple got the court order and refused, I took it personally," Reyes wrote. "Should another attack happen that could have been prevented by having the information from the phone, I feel that Tim Cook and Apple should be held accountable."

Reyes and Pifer's anger and frustration remains a common thread among many of the San Bernardino victims and their families. Attorney Stephen Larson is representing several individuals directly impacted by the events in San Bernardino. Through a "friend of the court" brief, Larson—who is representing survivors and family members of victims—is calling upon Apple to unlock Farook's phone.

"On an emotional level, [the victims] have a desire for information: Why did this happen? Why were they targeted?," he asked NBC News recently.