Yesterday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent out a lukewarm tweetstorm that tentatively expressed support for Apple CEO Tim Cook’s open letter against the government’s desire to provide a backdoor into iPhones in case of terrorist attacks. Though Pichai’s response was decidedly couched, Facebook and Twitter both took much more hard-line stances alongside the Cupertino company in resisting government desires.
Perhaps the most intense and colorful response came from Facebook, which released a strongly-worded statement on the issue:
We condemn terrorism and have total solidarity with victims of terror. Those who seek to praise, promote, or plan terrorist acts have no place on our services. We also appreciate the difficult and essential work of law enforcement to keep people safe. When we receive lawful requests from these authorities we comply. However, we will continue to fight aggressively against requirements for companies to weaken the security of their systems. These demands would create a chilling precedent and obstruct companies’ efforts to secure their products.
Facebook’s statement draws a more solid line than Pichai while still recognizing that the company routinely takes requests from law enforcement around the world in order to cooperate with ongoing investigations. But make no mistake: this is a definite vouch of support for Cook and Apple’s situation.
Similarly, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey weighed in, albeit in fewer words:
— Jack (@jack) February 18, 2016
Although these are important shows of support, it’s also key to note that software backdoors and hardware backdoors present different challenges and risks. While it’s clear that Facebook and Twitter are ready to stand alongside Apple in this fight, its hardware-focused companies that will have the most important sway in the encryption of smartphones and other devices.
Only they will help decide whether Apple can take a stand in hardware encryption, or if it will be swept along a tide of compliance.