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Google’s Sundar Pichai Offers Some Support to Apple on its FBI Encryption Fight

by Charles Humble on Feb 18, 2016 |

Google has made its first comment on the Apple/FBI encryption fight, with Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai offering Tim Cook some limited support via a series of Tweets:

Important post by @tim_cook. Forcing companies to enable hacking could compromise users’ privacy.

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.

Looking forward to a thoughtful and open discussion on this important issue.

Pichai’s comments come after self-exiled former US government employee Edward Snowden offered this assessment:

This is the most important tech case in a decade. Silence means @google picked a side, but it's not the public's.

On his Daring Fireball blog John Gruber draws attention to Pichai's repeated use of the word “could” and asks “Could Pichai’s response be any more lukewarm?”

He’s not really taking a stand, and the things he’s posing as questions aren’t actually in question. I’m glad he chimed in at all, and that he seems to be leaning toward Apple’s side, but this could be a lot stronger.

Cook has previously described privacy as a moral issue. At EPIC’s Champions of Freedom event in Washington last June Cook spoke remotely to the assembled audience and stated:

Like many of you, we at Apple reject the idea that our customers should have to make tradeoffs between privacy and security. We can, and we must, provide both in equal measure. We believe that people have a fundamental right to privacy. The American people demand it, the constitution demands it, morality demands it.

He has also been critical of Google and others for not taking security as seriously as, in his view, Apple does. Given this context it is not overly surprising that Pichai’s response stops short of a full backing for Cook, and he has at least made a statement.  By contrast, according to the New York Times, representatives of Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook and Amazon have all so far declined to comment.

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