Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden came out on Wednesday saying he supports Apple’s refusal to follow a federal court order to aid the FBI in unlocking an iPhone that belongs to one of the San Bernardino terrorist suspects. Snowden tweeted out a message of support to Apple saying, “The FBI is creating a world where citizens rely on Apple to defend their rights, rather than the other way around.” Snowden called on Internet giant Google to stand with Apple, saying, “This is the most important tech case in a decade.”
Google CEO Sundar Pichai took a public stand in support of Apple in a series of tweets late Wednesday, saying “forcing companies to enable hacking could compromise users’ privacy” and would set a “troubling precedent.” Snowden has been living in exile in Russia to avoid facing prosecution in the United States for leaking government secrets. He joined Twitter last September. His Twitter profile reads: “I used to work for the government. Now I work for the public.” He has found a receptive audience on Twitter. Twitter has positioned itself as a digital bastion of free speech and a core group of Twitter users oppose government surveillance and intrusion.
Apple CEO Tim Cook issued a letter on Tuesday saying his company would oppose a federal judge’s ruling ordering the technological leader to help investigators break into an iPhone belonging to San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook. “We have great respect for the professionals at the FBI, and we believe their intentions are good. Up to this point, we have done everything that is both within our power and within the law to help them,” Cook wrote in a letter published on Apple’s website.
Apple and Google engineered their software so they cannot unlock devices in the wake of damaging revelations by Snowden that made the world suspicious they created “back doors” for American intelligence and law enforcement. The fear: Unlocking the iPhone could hand law enforcement a master encryption key. The FBI hasn’t been able to access the smartphone because it is passcode-protected.
“The technical changes the FBI demands would make it possible to break into an iPhone (5C or older) in a half hour,” Snowden tweeted. Tech companies, like Apple and Google have security on their devices to keep everyone out: hackers, governments, even the companies themselves. Apple doesn’t hold the keys to Farook’s device. But the FBI wants Apple to create a special version of its iOS software that will get loaded onto the phone, circumvent Apple’s security features and let agents hack it.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest fired back against the idea saying the FBI is “not asking Apple to redesign its product or create a new backdoor to one of their products. They’re simply asking for something that would have an impact on this one device.” Donald Trump weighed in too, saying, “we have to open it up.” Marco Rubio, who is also vying for the Republican presidential nomination, said Apple should give up its fight and be “a good corporate citizen.”