WASHINGTON — Google chief executive officer Sundar Pichai has backed Apple in its battle with the FBI over opposing a U.S. court's ruling to unlock the iPhone of a Pakistani American terrorist who fatally shot 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif.
In a series of tweets, Pichai said that forcing companies to enable hacking into customers’ devices could set a bad precedent.
“Forcing companies to enable hacking could compromise user's privacy,” the Indian American CEO said as he supported Apple chief executive Tim Cook's stand.
“We know that law enforcement and intelligence agencies face significant challenges in protecting the public against crime and terrorism,” Pichai said.
“We build secure products to keep your information safe, and we give law enforcement access to data based on valid legal orders,” he added of what Google does.
“But that's wholly different than requiring companies to enable hacking of customer devices and data. Could be a troubling precedent,” he added as debates are on the merits of the case between Apple and federal law enforcement agencies.
Apple, which is eyeing big on the Indian market, Feb. 17 opposed a U.S. court's ruling to unlock the iPhone of San Bernardino gunman Syed Farook, who killed 14 and injured another 22 in the December attack.
In an open letter to its customers, Cook said building a backdoor access to encrypted data on the iPhone of the gunman would be “too dangerous” to create.
Cook's response came after a federal judge ordered Apple to provide investigators access to Farook's iPhone after the company “declined to provide” it voluntarily.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest has said this is one request and this does not require Apple to redesign some element of its software, or to create a new backdoor.
“It's a very specific request that the Department of Justice has made, and a judge agreed with them,” Earnest said.
Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz supported the FBI on the issue.
“I believe (Apple) should (be compelled to enforce the court order),” the Texas senator said during a CNN town hall.
“They have a binding search order. And, listen, any time you're dealing with issues of security and civil liberties, you got to balance them both,” Cruz said. “I think we can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can protect yourself from terrorist, and also protect our civil rights.”
Another presidential candidate, Marco Rubio, added, “Apple is under court order and I'm sure they're going to appeal it. They need to follow whatever the court order is ultimately.”