Blackberry CEO John Chen has written a blog post criticizing Apple’s strong stance on the privacy of customer data, suggesting that BlackBerry’s own privacy commitment “does not extend to criminals.” Although he does not name Apple directly, Chen links to an arsTechnica piece in which a NY federal judge expressed displeasure at Apple’s position in a case involving an iPhone belonging to a suspected drug dealer.
For years, government officials have pleaded to the technology industry for help yet have been met with disdain. In fact, one of the world’s most powerful tech companies recently refused a lawful access request in an investigation of a known drug dealer because doing so would “substantially tarnish the brand” of the company. We are indeed in a dark place when companies put their reputations above the greater good.
Apple uses end-to-end encryption for both iMessages and FaceTime, making it impossible for the company to decrypt these communications, and also introduced strong encryption of iOS devices in iOS 8, again leaving the company unable to access locked devices.
Opposition to Apple’s approach has included the United States Attorney General, the FBI, the DOJ and other law-enforcement agencies – with the Homeland Security Committee and CIA joining in following the Paris attacks.
Chen seems unaware of both the irony of his stance – as head of a company built on secure communications – and the potential damage to the company’s reputation by implicitly suggesting that its own devices can have their privacy compromised. As I argued in a recent opinion piece, if you build in a hole designed to be used by law enforcement agencies, it’s only a matter of time before criminals gain access.