Google CEO Sundar Pichai offered support, of sorts, to Apple and CEO Tim Cook's fight against a government order to create software that would allow the FBI to brute force attack a terrorist's iPhone. In series of five whole tweets, Mr. Pichai called an open letter from Mr. Cook "important" and questioned the judge's order that would force Apple to create surveillance tools, but his comments were a far cry from endorsing Mr. Cook's position.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai
Sundar Pichai assumed the leadership of Alphabet's Google arm as part of Google's restructuring into Alphabet in 2015. Alphabet CEO Larry Page has yet to publicly weigh in on this issue.
Mr. Pichai's tweets:
1/5 Important post by @tim_cook. Forcing companies to enable hacking could compromise users’ privacy— sundarpichai (@sundarpichai) February 17, 2016
2/5 We know that law enforcement and intelligence agencies face significant challenges in protecting the public against crime and terrorism— sundarpichai (@sundarpichai) February 17, 2016
3/5 We build secure products to keep your information safe and we give law enforcement access to data based on valid legal orders— sundarpichai (@sundarpichai) February 17, 2016
4/5 But that’s wholly different than requiring companies to enable hacking of customer devices & data. Could be a troubling precedent— sundarpichai (@sundarpichai) February 17, 2016
5/5 Looking forward to a thoughtful and open discussion on this important issue— sundarpichai (@sundarpichai) February 17, 2016
It's a milquetoast endorsement, if one is being charitable, and it's a disappointing reaction to the controversy facing Apple, the U.S. people, law enforcement, and the U.S. government. While Apple CEO Tim Cook has taken a vigorous stand in this issue, the entirety of the tech world needs to stand up on this issue. Google and Alphabet are two of the most important elements of that tech world, and they should be standing with Apple and the EFF.
On the other hand, Mr. Pichai's tweets did at least get more people talking about the issue on Twitter. Not for nothing, but his fifth tweet is salient. It will take a thoughtful and open discussion of these issues for there to be a meaningful resolution of them.
Even there, however, a stronger statement from Mr. Pichai would have gone further in stirring that conversation.