Tech Giants Back Apple In Opposing FBI: Do They Really Care About Your Privacy?


Apple's Silicon Valley rivals are standing side-by-side the tech company behind the line it has drawn in the sand over unlocking the San Bernardino iPhone. The reasons they've laid out may make a lot of sense to the jurors of the court of public opinion, but what they haven't being saying may make even more sense.

It would set a dangerous precedent, Apple CEO Tim Cook reasoned in an open letter laying out just why his company refuses to comply with a court to unlock the world's most infamous smartphone.

It's not just that the U.S. government wants Apple to unlock the iPhone that was once owned by one of the two terrorists that perpetrated the San Bernardino Massacre — it has unlocked iPhones for the government in the past. The government now wants Apple to build a software backdoor into the iPhone, and that's where Apple draws the line.

"The implications of the government's demands are chilling," Cook wrote. "If the government can use the All Writs Act [of 1789] to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone's device to capture their data."

Together They Stand

Microsoft is standing up for Apple in court. The Redmond-based company is prepping a friend of the court brief to show solidarity with Apple over what they say puts the privacy of consumers into the hands of the government.

Others to stand on Apple's side of the line includ: Google, Amazon, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Others still are rumored to be on board and moments away from speaking up.

Box wasn't ready to put its support in writing. But the company's CEO, Aaron Levie, made his company's position clear.

"The second the FBI unlocks this device, any sophisticated bad actor will move to another more secure device," Levie said. "We land squarely on the side of more security and more encryption."

Apple Care

The best interest of consumers may truly be on the minds of the nation's top tech companies, both inside Silicon Valley and headquartered elsewhere. But money is undoubtedly a major motive here. Those two things aren't mutually exclusive. 

For Apple, it may be the most obvious. The iPhone brings in well more than 60 percent of the company's revenue. And in a world that has heard what NSA leaker Edward Snowden had to say and has seen what celebrity iCloud users didn't want to share, security has been a huge deal for Apple.

For Microsoft, its big seller is the cloud storage and server products category. Despite situating its servers in Ireland, the company found the government knocking at its doors with a warrant for information stored in its cloud. Enterprises are already having a hard time going off campus and migrating to the cloud, for fear that they're most valuable assets and trade secrets could fall into the wrong hands.

For Alphabet, Google's parent company, its meal ticket is advertising. More people would be way less willing to share any type of data with Google if the company was found to be giving it to the government. The company doesn't sell private data, but it uses the information to improve the types of ads its platforms deliver.

They all have their own stories and so does Amazon, Facebook, Twitter and the rest of the gang. And CNET's Ed Bott, who follows the finances of the three listed above, knows where to look to find out a company's motives.

"If you want to know why a company acts the way it does, just follow the money," he writes.

So yes, Silicon Valley cares about consumer privacy. That's because consumer protections are good for business.

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