Monday, February 22, 2016

Security, Apple and Privacy Become PR Issues

 Tim Cook - Jonah Engler
Apple CEO Tim Cook has drawn a hard line in the sand. He will not obey a court order to build a hack to break into one of his company’s products.

As part of the investigation into the San Bernardino terrorist attacks, the FBI “requested” Apple break through the various security features in one of its iPhones, belonging to one of the terrorists. Cook’s response, even in the face of growing legal threats, is the stuff of business legend. Here are the highlights:

“The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers. We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand.

Smartphones, led by iPhone, have become an essential part of our lives. People use them to store an incredible amount of personal information, from our private conversations to our photos, our music, our notes, our calendars and contacts, our financial information and health data, even where we have been and where we are going. All that information needs to be protected from hackers and criminals who want to access it, steal it, and use it without our knowledge or permission. Customers expect Apple and other technology companies to do everything in our power to protect their personal information, and at Apple, we are deeply committed to safeguarding their data.

Compromising the security of our personal information can ultimately put our personal safety at risk. That is why encryption has become so important to all of us. For many years, we have used encryption to protect our customers' personal data because we believe it's the only way to keep their information safe. We have even put that data out of our own reach because we believe the contents of your iPhone are none of our business.” By putting it that way, Cook appeals to his customers, hoping to turn them into supporters. He’s made this personal. It’s not “some information” or a general call for privacy. It’s “your iPhone” and “none of our business”.

This is smart messaging, and it’s been successful so far. Most Apple buyers are standing in support of Cook. Further, Google has also pledged to support Apple in this stand. The FBI might be scary, but, when the rubber meets the road, Apple and Google standing together against the Feds certainly makes for a formidable opposition. Look for the FBI and other government agencies to attempt a different tactic soon. They cannot force this, so they will attempt to win by public opinion. Expect strong appeals to security and accusations of Apple infringing on the government’s ability to “fight terrorism.” Yes, this is far from over, and it’s going to get ugly.

Jonah Engler is a financial expert from New York City.

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