SAN FRANCISCO • Google and other technology companies are backing Apple in its fight against the US government, which is trying to get the company to unlock an encrypted iPhone, a move that the industry fears will lead to greater access by any authorities to private data.
Google's chief executive officer Sundar Pichai tweeted on Wednesday that asking companies to create a way to hack into people's devices and data would set a "troubling precedent".
"We build secure products to keep your information safe and we give law enforcement access to data based on valid legal orders," he said. "But that's wholly different than requiring companies to enable hacking of customer devices and data. Forcing companies to enable hacking could compromise users' privacy."
It is unfortunate that Apple continues to refuse to assist the department in obtaining access to the phone of one of the terrorists involved in a major terror attack on US soil.
U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
PRIVACY AT RISK
Forcing companies to enable hacking could compromise users' privacy.
GOOGLE CEO SUNDAR PICHAI
In a letter to customers on Tuesday, Apple's chief executive officer Tim Cook rejected a court order to help the US Federal Bureau of Investigation unlock an iPhone used by one of the shooters in a terrorist attack in California.
He called it a "chilling" attack on civil liberties and warned that ultimately the government could "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".
His stance drew endorsements in Silicon Valley. "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 its customer letter today. We must not allow this dangerous precedent to be set. Today our freedom and our liberty is at stake," said WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum on Twitter.
"Silicon Valley stands with Apple," Mr Bret Taylor, co-founder of Quip and former chief technology officer of Facebook and co-creator of Google Maps, posted on Twitter.
Reform Government Surveillance, a group representing companies including Google and Facebook, issued a statement on Wednesday reiterating that while it is "extremely important" to deter crime and terrorism, no company should be required to build backdoors to their own technology.
Apple and other technology companies say creating an opening in their products for government investigators would create a vulnerability that Chinese, Iranian, Russian or North Korean hackers could exploit.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the Department of Justice was asking Apple for access to just one device, a central part of the government's argument, which Mr Cook has said was "not true". "They are not asking Apple to redesign its product or to create a new backdoor to one of its products," Mr Earnest told reporters at a daily briefing.
The Justice Department showed no sign of backing down on Wednesday. The dispute could initiate legislation in Congress, with Republicans and Democrats alike criticising Apple's stance and calling for tougher decryption requirements.
BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK TIMES