Google backs Apple on encryption debate as things heat up

by: Kris CarlonFebruary 18, 2016

Sundar Pichai

Finally, something that Google and Apple can agree on: your right to privacy via encryption should not be infringed upon by your government. Yesterday, Apple CEO Tim Cook published an open letter regarding a recent court order that demands Apple assist the FBI with breaking the encryption on one of the San Bernadino shooter’s cell phones. Apple has formally rejected the request for an FBI backdoor to the iPhone and now Google CEO Sundar Pichai has stepped into Cook’s corner.

DataEncryptionLockedSee also: The dark side of encryption is also the light side25

Pichai was silent for much of the day yesterday, until releasing a series of tweets in support of Cook’s resistance to provide the government with a master key to iOS encryption. As Cook claimed yesterday, “the government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements”, citing the court order as having “implications far beyond the legal case at hand”. Cook is a long-time advocate of iPhone user’s privacy.

Pichai then stepped up in a volley of supportive tweets, saying that “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 and data. Could be a troubling precedent.” Pichai stated that he was looking forward to a thoughtful and open discussion on the issue.

The only problem is that these discussions have already taken place. The FBI has repeatedly met with various social media and technology bosses and tried to strong arm them into compliance, frequently falling back on the media when these discussions go nowhere. But the tech industry is standing fast and has resisted all efforts thus far by the FBI, CIA and NSA to force them into providing law enforcement with a veritable master key to bypass their sophisticated encryption systems.

In early January, top executives from Apple, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Facebook met with a White House delegation to discuss the topic of encryption and terrorists on social media. Although the general tone was supposedly informal, following the meeting several statements were made in defence of companies’ rights to maintain their encryption standards without providing the government with access to customer data. Tim Cook was among the attendees.

However, as many internet commentators have noted, the government frequently does some sabre-rattling whenever an attack provides an emotional backdrop against which to paint encryption as the bad guy. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that even if governments had access to encryption keys, attackers would simply find alternative means of communications, just as they have always done. And nobody is pretending the government wouldn’t abuse the power or that other hackers might not also exploit any back doors to encryption.

Nexus 6P January security update resized

The popular argument goes that the government is simply using these highly charged personal and political situations to try to sway public opinion. Several months before the Paris attacks, the general consul in the Office of the Director for National Intelligence said as much, stating that although “the legislative environment is very hostile today, it could turn in the event of a terrorist attack or criminal event where strong encryption can be shown to have hindered law enforcement.”

At the very least it looks like the two largest tech companies in the world are standing shoulder to shoulder in this fight for your right to privacy. After all, these companies rely on your trust and loyalty to survive. With the presidential election campaign heating up, this topic is going to become more and more divisive, as law enforcement and the government position themselves firmly on one side, while the public digs in on the other.


The last time I wrote about this I said the tech industry was caught in the middle of these two sides, but with Cook and Pichai backing each other up, we’re starting to get a much clearer idea of which side the tech world will fall on. However, as Pichai noted, any discussions on the topic need to be public, not held in secret behind closed doors. When it’s our first amendment rights that are at stake, we deserve to be in the room.

Where do you see this debate going? How much do you value your privacy?

  • HotelQuebec

    Cook just doesn’t want anyone to see his b*tt s*x pictures.

    • Chris

      Troll much?

    • Scr-U-gle

      He who shouts loudest has the most to hide!

      Just come out of the closet, you might become a human being.

  • McHale72

    I’m not a fan of Apple products or Tim Cook. But I do support and agree with him 100% on his stance. It literally boosted his and Apple’s image for me.

    • Chris

      Apple has always been ahead in the privacy game. That’s one of the things I like about them.

      • Ridge

        Is that a joke? They’re absolutely known to have the easiest software to exploit. They’re the least secure.

        • mrjayviper

          so are you implying FBI’s computer forensics are useless?

          • Ridge

            In what way am I implying that? The only thing that I’m stating, not implying, is that Apple’s software’s security is known to be subpar. Nothing more, nothing less.

          • mrjayviper

            if it’s subpar then why can’t FBI do it themselves?

            Seems to me Apple’s security is working nicely in preventing unauthorized access!

          • Ridge

            Who says they can’t, off the books? A bunch of hackers were able to. There’s a difference between being able to do it legally and getting caught doing it illegally. That’s speculation, of course. In any case, I was literally only referring to the incident with the leaked icloud photos and profiles. You can take what you want from that.

          • mrjayviper

            and whatever policies in place to allow those “leak pics” have now been replaced/fixed. you’re discussing history when things have changed already.

          • Diego

            umm, the iCloud hack was a targeted attack on email addresses.
            Also, the people that were in the photo leek had easy to guess security questions.

          • Scr-U-gle

            You should really know what you are talking about before you start talking nonsense.

            Is it a hack when you use 1234 as a password? Does it make an badly coded system when your password is 1234?

            If you don’t know what you are talking about, its best to shut up.

        • Chris

          No its not. Lay off your fanboy attitude and look at the bigger picture

          • vegiisan

            Do you know how easy it is to hack in MacOS? Very. When I needed to get into my dad’s Mac, it took me 30 seconds to bypass his login and make a new user total system admin.

            Apple products are also the first to fall and get hacked in competitions to expose vulnerabilities. You might want to do a bit of research on your position as being the most secure.

          • Chris

            So you hacked your dad’s computer because he took your computer privileges away? Maybe do as your told and be home at curfew

          • vegiisan

            No, he had passed away actually. I needed access to his computer so I could recover some old family photos and sentimental files from his computer. Seeing as he was dead I wasn’t able to ask for his password.

          • Diego

            mac os is very easy to hack.
            Pass the pipe man, you had too much.

          • vegiisan

            Exactly……… hence the statement that Apple is by no means the most secure software maker on the planet….

          • Diego

            Sorry to tell you the truth, but os X is the most secure os after linux.
            Oh, and my reply to you was sarcasm.

          • vegiisan

            Hmm no, sorry to tell you, but OpenBSD and Linux would be in the top 2, that places Mac OS lower on the list. Also you’re probably referring to theoretical analyses of security, ie, how many viruses a system can get meaning it’s more or less secure. That is an inaccurate assessment of security. When real humans try to exploit systems, Mac has a massive number of vulnerabilities and leaks that go unplugged for months. Hence at hacking conventions, Mac is always the first to fall. Windows and Google plug security leaks a lot faster than Apple, so they have the lowest overall vulnerabilities. Anyway, I’m tired of the internet fanboy trolls on here for today, do some research not from Apple forums and you’ll find the truth. Have a lovely day.

          • Scr-U-gle

            You’re just showing how much BS you are full of.

            OS X is Unix, Linux is a copy of Unix.

            Windows and Google are two of the weakest when it comes to security, thats why the NSA call them “open books”.

            I only see governments rushing in legislation against Apple, not Microsoft or Google.

            Considering Google have been seed funded and are long term partners with the NSA, Darpa and the CIA, you need to check some facts before you start with your fictions.

          • Diego

            Are you referring to that report?

            Because that my friend, is pretty uninformative claim.

            Triple the security problem my ass.

            Its pretty difficult to implement a system wide virus on os X.

            On osx 10.11, you first have to worry about getting root “super user” permissions.

            after that, you have to worry about getting past SIP, system integrity protection.

            Then, you have to worry about getting past kext signing.

            So like I said, that report is total BS.


            uhhh, no.

            As far as I know, the latest exploit is a browser based hack that can jailbreak an iPhone, and that hack has been resolved already.

            linux, again Bs.

            Seams like an MS stunt to get people to go windows.

          • Nick And Jake

            GIve me a break. OSX is based on BSD, and if the files are encrypted brute force or hardware cloning is one of your only options.

            Figured I would look into you and it just made me feel really bad for you. Some of your other comments are also you just talking a load of balls about things of which you know nothing. While I am no apple fanboy and actually use an android you are completely out of your depth here – to the point you don’t even properly understand the challenge.

            Either way, you didn’t ‘hack’ anything the way you claimed. The computer was unsecured in the first place and you just logged in as guest.

            Do some more googling though.

  • SilentPatriot

    I’m disappointed Trump was so quick to jump on the gov’t bandwagon regarding this issue. I would expect him to be standing up for the privacy rights of the American citizens he claims to want to represent. The gov’t hasn’t proven they are capable of handling their own email…

    • Chris

      Trump is a joke. He has ZERO political experience.

  • ddd

    This is too funny about piece of garbage crab apple(loser). I just laugh my ass off about apple. Apple always copy other companies ideas like os and design but apple doesn’t make shit on display and camera, processor and battery.
    Apple ios 8 and 9 always copy from all android os features. Apple products like piece of garbage products like iphone and ipad display is from LG ips lcd and camera made from sony, processor and battery made from other companies. Apple doesn’t have fucking INNOVATION at all. Do apple fans know about this statement? HELL NO
    Apple fans(losers) don’t know nothing about technology in the market. I know better than anybody else.
    Two assholes tim cook and steve woziank do stupid things all the time, because they want to encrypt google because two assholes aren’t good as google does. Google teams always create new different ideas for os and new features for android phones. Android can do more than ios 8 and 9 does. I HOPE APPLE WILL BE BANKRUPT VERY SOON THEN I WILL BE TOO HAPPY.




    • Diego

      Please go back to bgr.

      • Chris


        • Diego

          BGR is a isheep/fandroid website.

    • Diego Opazo SV-Cross

      Ok… do you know how to read? This issue affects everyone of us.

    • madcanada

      This is on subject how? You just sound like a 12 year old who’s mom didn’t buy him an iPhone he wanted, but opted out with an old Nexus 5, which was probably free with the contract.

    • Scr-U-gle

      Great mindless rant of a lunatic, take your meds and have a rest.

    • tiger

      Ignorant dumbass.

  • Man, twitter should really increase the word limit of tweets.

  • Bill K

    its good to see these two iPhone companies finally agree with each other about something

  • Mike

    Facebook, Google, and many other companies routinely collect and monitor more data on each and every citizen…more then the government could ever dream of. Yet there’s this illogical bias towards fearing the government so much more..God forbid if there ever was a large scale Terrorist attack on the US and vital information was locked up in one or multiple iPhone(s)…watch how fast the court of public opinion would side with the FBI on this issue.. People are funny, they want 100% protection of their rights…until there is an event…then things get real..real fast, and priorities believe it or not, change. The majority of people would be asking why the FBI didn’t protect them from the evil Terrorists…it’s only human nature to do so. So is Apple going to protect potential information that the Police might need to help solve 1000’s of criminal cases all in the name of protecting the data on your iPhone NO MATTER WHAT? Sorry but there has to be a balance found between protecting rights and providing important data in certain important circumstances.

    • abazigal

      For all we know, the FBI may have no problems extracting crucial information from the iPhone. There may not even be any useful information on the phone at all. The FBI could simply have been waiting for an incident like the shootings to inflame people’s passions and blow matters up.

      Power once given is not so easily taken back. And I feel this is too much power to give the FBI. There is also no guarantee that the FBI will not abuse this authority, or that it won’t fall into the wrong hands.

      I am with Apple on this one. Fight them every step of the way!

      • Mike

        Sorry but we need a balance between privacy and protection. For years, Apple met that providing law enforcement and government agencies the internal iPhone information they requested. Given they received the correct judge’s warrants….Apple provided the information requested. Everything changed in September 2014 when Apple released iOS 8 and their new Security Policy….judge’s warrants were now a moot point. Apple deliberately redesigned iOS 8 so even they could not retrieve data from an iPhone.
        There is no longer any balance between privacy and protection (ie. LE prosecuting the bad guy be they a criminal or terrorist)…Apple and LE, and the Government must find a way back to that balance…

        • Diego

          Ask the US government, they are helping the criminals “isis” after all.

          • Vicki Collins Reed

            Great point Diego.

          • Mike

            You’ve been watching to much X-Files….if you think the US Govt is calling the shots..they did…but not anymore. Companies tell the Govt what to do, why do you think each company has an army of lobbyists in Washington?

      • Diego

        The iPhone in question is a work phone.
        Remember, the man destroyed his motherboard, So if we or the “government” used logic, their should be nothing useful on the phone.

      • Vicki Collins Reed

        You are so right on Abazigal

    • Vicki Collins Reed

      Terrorism was the excuse that Bush used to take away most of our freedom. It is not alright to do away with our freedoms because of terrorists. The government won’t give back our freedom and privacy after the cisis has past. So they have got to find other ways to find the information they need. If Mr and Mrs. Asleep at the Wheel American gives up this freedom because they are frightened they have absolutely no foresight. Think past your fear and see the future. You will have more to fear after you have given away your rights and freedom. WAKE UP!!!

      • Mike

        …and what freedom have you lost…?

        • Vicki Collins Reed

          All the government has to do is declare a person a terrorist (American citizens included) and then they can be arrested, held indefinitely, having no right to council. What freedom do you think we’ve lost. If that isn’t the antithesis to the Constitution I don’t know what would b be.

          • Mike

            “All the government has to do…” You said it best….WAKE UP!

            If you think the govt is calling the shots you are sadly mistaken. Most branches of the govt have been bought and sold by corporate lobbyists groups. I myself have little trust in the govt REP or DEM, but I don’t blame the puppet I blame the puppeteer. It’s always MUCH easier for people to blame the puppet. Run down the branches of the govt…FCC, FDA, Banking Regulators, Pentagon, etc..I can’t think of a branch nowadays that isn’t owned by armies of lobbyists. Talk about losing Freedom..please give me a break. Meanwhile MANY companies (it’s literally their business model – so I guess it’s OK – right.) like Facebook, Google, Microsoft (Windows 10 – do a little research into whats going on behind your back….you would be shocked..) and many many others…are LEGALLY sucking more personal data about each and every person..then the govt could EVERY DREAM OF. But few people care..because we are all focused on the govt. WAKE UP The govt sadly in 2016 is rapidly becoming a figurehead for corporate America. Next time ask yourself why the exact same prescription drugs cost more in the US, or why does my cable bill keep going up, or why if the F-35 jet fighter has so many problems and cost of $1.5T that’s Trillion dollars, why can’t it be stopped, or why did only ONE PERSON go to jail after the worst banking failure in American HISTORY..I could go on and on. WAKE UP. Talk about losing Freedom. It’s much much worse then you think..and as I said..”…and what Freedom have you lost?”
            The answer – you like many people…have no idea.!

  • abazigal

    You call that lacklustre and non-commital response “backing up Apple”? Google might as well not have said anything at all. What’s with the use of vague terms like “could”? Either it does or it doesn’t.

  • Anthony Jr Gonzalez

    Yeqh u cant just gave companies hack their own devices hudt because ut was court oredered its an internatioal company their is no court order and second if they even do this, the gacks will eventually be leaked onkine and can do alot of damage finicial wise because the companies would have to spend alot of money to build a new security encryption larger then it was before

  • mrjayviper

    very weak reply from Google.

    • Chris

      Because you are a fanboy?

      • mrjayviper

        because it is weak.

        • Chris

          Thank God fanboys don’t run these compnies

          • tiger

            You think Google’s “support” is strong? Look at all the openings they left themselves just in case they become FBI’s little b!tches.

          • Scr-U-gle

            They are already the CIA’s, DARPA & the NSA’s bitch, maybe they have just kept their relationship with the FBI secret.

  • Steve Brain

    The FBI can go get fucked as far as I’m concerned. Get a warrant on a case by case basis to access someone’s PERSONAL INFORMATION you fuck ants! The world isn’t your bloody oyster to do literally anything you want, people have rights

    • Chris

      Criminals do not have any rights

      • poonjhi

        oy vey! you tell em!

      • Scr-U-gle

        Showing the usual moRoid response, by not knowing any facts. Everyone has rights. Even moroids like you!

  • chris

    4th Amendment, not 1st Amendment. What use is commenting on the tech industry’s protection of our rights if you don’t know what rights they’re protecting? C’mon, man.

  • tiger

    Weak sauce from Google. smh

  • heavytt

    Who do we want to fight, terrorists or an over zealous government agency? I think I will have a better chance in a court of law against a government agency than a bad guy who don’t give a damn about the right of privacy but uses it to inflict harm

    • Scr-U-gle

      I guess you have never heard of the US contra fiasco?

  • Richard

    Hearing this debate without the context made me side with the government only because it was connected with the shooting. if they are wanting data off of the phone, if it is encrypted, there isn’t a backdoor. the chip in the storage will wipe all of the encrypted data if the data is viewed without that encryption key. I now understand that it is not the responsibility of the manufacturers for this kind of ‘device hacking’ and if they need access to it, going through the media and screaming that it is national security and trying to perform legal BS and charging the companies millions of dollars still won’t resolve and get what they want. that is how the technology is made and there is no way to get around it. this seems to be a case of a cranky government blowing up an issue that they should deal with on their own. if they’re worried about the social media, go to the social media companies, not the manufacturers. if they’re worried about the local data on the phone, hire a contracting hacker and see how far you can get. there are ways to be able to get the data off of the phone. not much of it could help, but if it’s encrypted, %50 of the battle is lost before the battle began.

  • Scr-U-gle

    China do not require Apple to provide hacks to iOS or OS X, but the US Goverment does.

    Is no one else finding this an alarming state of affairs?

    Just goes to prove that the vast majority of people are morons.

    Maybe the people of America are just easier to manipulate, they are already brain washed with the whole ‘USA, No1’ and the fact it looks like Donald Twat will be the next president.

  • Andi Sabin

    Dudes… You do realise that the FBI/NSA could just make a copy of the memory and decrypt it, right? It’s AES 256 encription. Top notch, but with NSA’s supercomputers it can be decrypted. Or they could just reverse engineer the iPhone’s firmware.
    See the big picture. They only need to shift the public opinion towards them using this particular case in order to create a legal precedent for the future.
    They don’t want to hack that one iPhone as they can do that allready. They want a backdoor so they can acces any iPhone.