Privacy advocates have been rallying for Apple at its stores, showing support for the company, which recently came out against FBI requests that the company build backdoors into its iOS operating system to allow for governments to gather data on criminals.
The issue isn’t that the company doesn’t want to help the feds find criminals, but rather that the creation of a backdoor could enable far more requests as far as government spying goes, and it could open the operating system up to being hacked.
The protest itself was organized by digital rights group Fight for the Future, or FFTF, who were protesting that the government has demanded Apple help the FBI in hacking an iPhone that was used by one of the shooters in San Bernardino.
“We want to show Apple that people are standing with them,” said Cindy Cohen, director of the FFTF. “Once Apple does it, other people are going to come and say, ‘Apple, do it for me.’ How do they say no the next time?”
According to the FFTF chairman, Charlie Furman, the event was organized to show appreciation by the privacy community of Apple, and bringing that appreciation off the internet and into the real world.
“It’s really important that we hold companies accountable when they’re doing something wrong, but stand in support of them when they’re doing something right,” said Furman.
The FFTF is planning on holding rallies around the nation on Tuesday to further show support for Apple. Of course the FFTF isn’t the only organization showing support of Apple. A number of other large tech companies have come out in support of the company.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai was among the first to show support for Apple, suggesting that the FBI request sets a dangerous precedent.
“We know that law enforcement and intelligence agencies face significant challenges in protecting the public against crime and terrorism,” said Pichai on Twitter.
“We build secure products to keep your information safe and we give law enforcement access to data based on valid legal orders,” he said in another. “But that’s wholly different than requiring companies to enable hacking of customer devices & data. Could be a troubling precedent,” he said, finishing the series of tweets.
WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum also expressed support for Apple, coming out against the FBI requests.
“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,” said Koum on Facebook.
Facebook itself issued a statement saying that it would continue to fight against companies having to weaken their security systems, however it did not specifically mention the disagreement between Apple and the FBI.
Apple also is not the only company to offer such strong encryption. Google also encrypts Android devices, with both companies having engineered their devices in a way that prevents even the companies themselves from being able to access user data.
Apple has long been a defender of user privacy. The company has aggressively defended privacy, particularly during Tim Cook’s reign as CEO, but also before then with Steve Jobs at the helm. The company has also urged the U.S. government to make a stand, supporting the “no backdoors” when it comes to device encryption, and reminding the government that the creation of backdoors also creates a backdoor for “the bad guys.”
Still, the battle over user privacy is likely to continue into the foreseeable future, especially after Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA had complex and high-tech programs in place designed to spy on citizens of the US. The programs were implemented to track suspicious people, however the agency had cast its net so wide that millions of law-abiding citizens were also being tracked by the agency. This news largely changed the way we see customer privacy, and the saga still isn’t over, with Edward Snowden having fled to Russia to avoid being put to trial as a traitor in the US.
The issue is a serious one, and one that all consumers should keep an eye on if they care for their privacy.