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Facebook and Twitter back Apple's privacy stance

Does anyone in the tech industry think the FBI's iPhone crack request is sensible?

Silicon Valley heavyweights Facebook and Twitter have rallied behind Apple in its privacy dispute with the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

For those of you who've spent the week under a rock, the FBI wants Apple to craft a custom crack of the iPhone owned by Syed Farook, who with his wife Tashfeen Malik shot and killed 14 coworkers last year in December in San Bernardino, California. Farook and Malik are suspected of being associated with terror groups.

The FBI have Malik's iPhone 5c in their possession, but don't know his passcode. It's not possible to brute-force the device, because iOS only permits ten attempts to guess a passcode. After ten unsuccessful login attempts, iPhones auto-wipe. The FBI has therefore asked Apple to craft a custom crack, to be performed on Apple premises, so they can examine the contents of the phone and won a court order that compels Cupertino's compliance.

Apple has refused to do so, saying in an open letter arguing that even in a case involving a terrorism investigation it will put customer privacy above all else.

Arguments about the rights and wrongs of that position are this week's universal water cooler conversation. And now other tech giants are weighing in. Yesterday, the likes of Google, Whatsapp and the Internet Society backed Apple's stance.

Now Twitter and Facebook have done likewise.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, constrained as he is to 140 characters, offered the following.

Facebook's been in touch with media, offering the following statement:

“We condemn terrorism and have total solidarity with victims of terror. Those who seek to praise, promote, or plan terrorist acts have no place on our services. We also appreciate the difficult and essential work of law enforcement to keep people safe. When we receive lawful requests from these authorities we comply. However, we will continue to fight aggressively against requirements for companies to weaken the security of their systems. These demands would create a chilling precedent and obstruct companies’ efforts to secure their products.”

Legislators around the world are expressing increasing disquiet with the technology industries' attitude to encryption. This matter looks likely to deepen the rift between technocrats and bureaucrats. ®

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