Edward Snowden called Apple a "pioneering" company in the area of privacy. In an editorial for The New York Times titled "The World Says No to Surveillance," Mr. Snowden made the case that public sentiment has turned against the surveillance state.
Mr. Snowden first rose to prominence after leaking documents detailing mass surveillance operations in the U.S. being conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA). Those documents accused Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and a host of other companies of giving the U.S. backdoor access to private communications and other data of U.S. citizens not accused of a crime.
All of those companies denied the accusations, but whether or not they were true, some of them have been stepping up to the privacy plate by enabling strong encryption by default on both hardware and services.
Apple, for instance, has made full-disk encryption the default starting with iOS 8. The company also made iMessage use peer-to-peer encryption, a setup that means not even Apple can break that encryption.
That move has drawn strong opposition from U.S. law enforcement, the FBI, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and the White House, all of whom live in a fantasy world where they can have backdoor access to our data without the bad guys also gaining access to that data.
On Thursday, the FBI stepped up its campaign against privacy by telling Congress that secure communications aid ISIS, the Islamist terrorist group, and should therefore be eliminated.
Edward Snowden, however, has taken a more upbeat look at developments, noting that the NSA's bulk collections program in the U.S. was recently ended. He also cited laws in Europe and in South America protecting citizens from mass surveillance.
But it was Apple that he singled out as a pioneering company, saying:
Beyond the frontiers of law, progress has come even more quickly. Technologists have worked tirelessly to re-engineer the security of the devices that surround us, along with the language of the Internet itself. Secret flaws in critical infrastructure that had been exploited by governments to facilitate mass surveillance have been detected and corrected. Basic technical safeguards such as encryption—once considered esoteric and unnecessary—are now enabled by default in the products of pioneering companies like Apple, ensuring that even if your phone is stolen, your private life remains private. Such structural technological changes can ensure access to basic privacies beyond borders, insulating ordinary citizens from the arbitrary passage of anti-privacy laws, such as those now descending upon Russia.
Opinions on Edward Snowden are mixed. Some hail him as a hero, others a traitor. Whatever camp you fall in, however, he is right that Apple is taking a lead in corporate America on privacy. CEO Tim Cook has been singularly vocal on the topic, recently saying in a speech that, "weakening encryption, or taking it away, harms good people that are using it for the right reasons."