Apple is going to war with the FBI.
The Bureau wants the Cupertino tech company to help it unlock an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters. But Apple refuses, arguing that doing so would set a dangerous precedent and make all its users less safe.
Battle lines are being drawn up: On one side, those who argue Apple has a duty to aid law enforcement in any way it can, and on the other, those who fear that the case risks setting a dangerous precedent — that companies can be forced to hack their users.
Here’s what the tech industry is saying.
First, Apple. After the ruling on Tuesday, CEO Tim Cook published a strongly worded open letter to the company’s customers explaining why Apple is opposing it.
“The government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers — including tens of millions of American citizens — from sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals,” he wrote. “The same engineers who built strong encryption into the iPhone to protect our users would, ironically, be ordered to weaken those protections and make our users less safe.”
Cook concluded: “While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products. And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.”
Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
The EFF is a civil liberties advocacy group. Predictably, they are supporting Apple on this one. In a blog post, deputy executive director Kurt Opsahl explained why:
We are supporting Apple here because the government is doing more than simply asking for Apple’s assistance. For the first time, the government is requesting Apple write brand new code that eliminates key features of iPhone security — security features that protect us all. Essentially, the government is asking Apple to create a master key so that it can open a single phone. And once that master key is created, we’re certain that our government will ask for it again and again, for other phones, and turn this power against any software or device that has the audacity to offer strong security.
Facebook has yet to make a public statement. A company spokesperson declined to comment when reached by Business Insider.
The social network is a member of industry body Reform Government Surveillance, which has released a statement (below).
Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, has spoken out on Twitter in support of Apple. “Forcing companies to enable hacking could compromise users’ privacy,” he wrote.
“We know that law enforcement and intelligence agencies face significant challenges in protecting the public against crime and terrorism. We build secure products to keep your information safe and we give law enforcement access to data based on valid legal orders. But that’s wholly different than requiring companies to enable hacking of customer devices & data. Could be a troubling precedent.”
Microsoft has yet to make a public statement. A company spokesperson declined to comment when reached by Business Insider
The tech company is a member of industry body Reform Government Surveillance, which has released a statement (below).
Mozilla, the organisation behind popular web browser Firefox, has Apple’s back.
Executive director Mark Surman said (via Wired UK): “[The case] sets a dangerous precedent that threatens consumers’ security going forward. Companies should be encouraged to aggressively strengthen the security of their products, rather than undermine that security.”
Reform Government Surveillance
Reform Government Surveillance is a coalition of some of the world’s tech companies. Members include AOL, Apple, Dropbox, Evernote, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo. The group issued a statement offering Apple some support on Wednesday:
Reform Government Surveillance companies believe it is extremely important to deter terrorists and criminals and to help law enforcement by processing legal orders for information in order to keep us all safe. But technology companies should not be required to build in backdoors to the technologies that keep their users’ information secure. RGS companies remain committed to providing law enforcement with the help it needs while protecting the security of their customers and their customers’ information.
Twitter has yet to make a public statement.
A company spokesperson directed Business Insider towards Twitter’s previous support for Save Crypto, a petition to the White House arguing against any weakening of encryption, and towards Twitter’s joint submission to Britain’s proposed new spying law the Investigatory Powers Bill.
It reads: “We reject any proposals that would require companies to deliberately weaken the security of their products via backdoors, forced decryption, or any other means.”
The social network is also a member of industry body Reform Government Surveillance, which has released a statement (above.)
Facebook hasn’t commented yet, but the CEO of Facebook-owned messenger WhatsApp has.
Founder Jan Koum is strongly supporting Apple, saying that “today our freedom and our liberty is at stake.” Koum is a vocal advocate of strong encryption technology, and it is incorporated into WhatsApp.
Here’s his full Facebook post:
I have always admired Tim Cook for his stance on privacy and Apple’s efforts to protect user data and couldn’t agree more with everything said in their Customer Letter today. We must not allow this dangerous precedent to be set. Today our freedom and our liberty is at stake.
The ride-hailing app is yet to comment.