Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Edward Snowden Side With Tim Cook On Apple vs. FBI Encryption Case


Apple has recently uploaded an open letter penned by its CEO, Tim Cook, as a response to FBI's demands that it create a special version of the iOS mobile operating system that could be used as a backdoor to iPhones.

The demand was made in connection with the San Bernardino terrorist attack last December, wherein a young married couple who sympathized with the Islamic State killed 14 people and injured 22 others. The FBI is looking to extract the contents of the iPhone 5c the terrorists used to make progress in the investigation.

Apple, however, stood its ground.

"The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control," Tim Cook wrote.

In response to Apple's open letter, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, perhaps the most famous whistleblower in the world, has called for Google to stand on the same side as Apple in a bid to protect the privacy and security of users.

"The FBI is creating a world where citizens rely on Apple to defend their rights, rather than the other way around," Snowden said.

Soon after, Google, Apple's biggest rival in the mobile device industry as the creator of the Android mobile operating system, revealed its stance in the issue, countering what Snowden claimed was silence that meant the company was siding with the government.

A series of five tweets by Google CEO Sundar Pichai shows that while the company allows law enforcement agencies to gain access to data stored within its secure products if handed valid legal orders, ordering companies to hack the devices and data of their own customers sets a "troubling precedent."

Pichai ends the tweets by stating that he is looking forward to an open discussion on the ongoing issue.

Not everybody is taking the side of Apple in the issue, however, with the more vocal parties calling for Apple to give in to FBI's demands being relatives of the victims of the San Bernardino attack.

"I feel like now there are a whole bunch of terrorists running out and buying iPhones, like the little 'I' in iPhone should be for ISIS," said Mandy Pifer, who lost her fiance Shannon Johnson in the attack. Johnson was deemed a hero as he shielded survivor Denise Peraza from the bullets that were fired by the terrorists.

Pifer added that while a lot of Apple's questions on the effects of creating a backdoor on user privacy were hypothetical, the fact is that her fiance was among those killed, and that missing pieces in the case can be extracted from the iPhone 5c one of the attackers used.

All in all, the ongoing feud between Apple and the FBI highlights the delicate balance between individual privacy and authorities' need for information to defend the public from incidents such as the San Bernardino attack.

The outcome of the case will have a wide reach in the tech industry, as other big companies such as Amazon with its public cloud services and Salesforce with its apps could someday also be forced by the FBI or any government agency to break down the walls of security built to protect the users of their products.

According to Gartner VP Neil MacDonald, the heart of the issue is the fact that there is no such thing as a "backdoor" that only the government or a law enforcement agency can use, as once such a workaround is created, hackers can take advantage of it for their illegal purposes.

MacDonald adds that the term is a misnomer by itself, as it is simply a "door" that bad guys will find a way to use to steal the sensitive information Apple's iOS is meant to protect.

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