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Google CEO Finally Chimes In On FBI Encryption Case, Says He Agrees With Apple (gizmodo.com) 255

An anonymous reader writes: After Tim Cook's eloquent letter explaining why Apple wouldn't help the FBI get encrypted data from the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone, the internet looked to Google to take a similar stand. Now Google CEO Sundar Pichai has posted five tweets that seem to show he agrees with Cook.
Edward Snowden had previously suggested that Google's silence meant Google had "picked a side, but it's not the public's."
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Google CEO Finally Chimes In On FBI Encryption Case, Says He Agrees With Apple

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  • by rsborg ( 111459 ) on Wednesday February 17, 2016 @10:32PM (#51532107) Homepage

    I'm glad Sundar is agreeing this is an important issue... however, there are a lot of wiggle words in his phrasing.

    Forcing companies to enable hacking could compromise users’ privacy

    Is it too much to ask Google to simply come out in favor of privacy of its users?

    • by Soulskill ( 1459 ) on Wednesday February 17, 2016 @10:39PM (#51532137)

      Agreed. While it's nice to see him bring it up, it's definitely a weaker stance than Apple's. Pichai also says being required to enable hacking "Could be a troubling precedent." Well, yes. It would be nice if he (and CEOs of other major tech firms) stated specific opposition to it.

      Users understand that if a company is legally bound to compromise privacy to work with law enforcement, they're going to do it. Nobody at Apple is going to go to jail for obstruction of justice. But it counts for something when they say that's the only way they'll do it, and when they put up a fight in court.

      • by Shadow99_1 ( 86250 ) <theshadow99NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday February 18, 2016 @01:14AM (#51532679)

        Well my parent's believe Apple are being a bunch of dicks about this and should just comply. I doubt they are the only ones. While you and me may believe privacy is worth fighting for I bet most companies would rather get a good feeling for the general consensus first. From a pure 'business' perspective that's the right thing to do when not specifically on the spot like Apple is.

        Apple had no good option to go with, spend lots of time and effort trying to make it possible with no return or make this a public case of privacy for their users and the government is 'bad'. Looking at those of course they go 'User Privacy!' as a rallying cry. You need to remember while peopel may run then, a company is a collective entity that is entirely selfish.

        • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <.slashdot. .at. .worf.net.> on Thursday February 18, 2016 @03:07AM (#51532939)

          Well my parent's believe Apple are being a bunch of dicks about this and should just comply. I doubt they are the only ones. While you and me may believe privacy is worth fighting for I bet most companies would rather get a good feeling for the general consensus first. From a pure 'business' perspective that's the right thing to do when not specifically on the spot like Apple is.

          Apple had no good option to go with, spend lots of time and effort trying to make it possible with no return or make this a public case of privacy for their users and the government is 'bad'. Looking at those of course they go 'User Privacy!' as a rallying cry. You need to remember while peopel may run then, a company is a collective entity that is entirely selfish.

          To which you point out to your parents Tim Cook's letter, which is linked off the front page of apple.com. In it he details why he's making the stand, and even more importantly, why he's "being a dick". He even addresses terrorism itself. It's a very insightful and thoughtful message that explains why Apple does not want to roll over and be the FBI's pet. And he even details why encryption is not just optional on a smartphone, but mandatory. And heck, Apple did give up the data they could - the iCloud backups, which were obtained legally by a warrant.

          As for the "user privacy" stance - after the Snowden revelations, it's the only stance Apple can take. It's also beneficial, since it's the stance Apple can take to differentiate their products from their competitors.

          But think of it this way - if they didn't care, why did they go through all the trouble of the secure enclave? And to make it an extremely paranoid one at that - giving it the ultimate power to wipe the phone if attacked? (Error 53 is such an attack - perhaps a modified fingerprint sensor is trying to find a way to break the secure enclave code and allow it to run arbitrary code, allowing full access to the system without the system knowing. The secure enclave is paranoid as it should be). It's why later phones rely on it to do the 10 authentication attempts and wipe, and why the enclave enforces the delays between attempts.

          If anything, this issue should go to the Supreme Court to be decided there, putting to rest all those legislation trying to put backdoors in encryption products and other things.

          And yes, there is a chilling effect - it spreads wider than just Apple, but to everyone. Not just iOS, or Android, or Blackberry, but to the very foundations of what the Internet provides. Because it's not just encryption, but efforts like HTTPS Everywhere, Lets Encrypt and other services,

          • by jafiwam ( 310805 )

            But think of it this way - if they didn't care, why did they go through all the trouble of the secure enclave? And to make it an extremely paranoid one at that - giving it the ultimate power to wipe the phone if attacked? (Error 53 is such an attack - perhaps a modified fingerprint sensor is trying to find a way to break the secure enclave code and allow it to run arbitrary code, allowing full access to the system without the system knowing. The secure enclave is paranoid as it should be). It's why later phones rely on it to do the 10 authentication attempts and wipe, and why the enclave enforces the delays between attempts.

            "Caring" isn't needed. It makes economic sense to make the phones secure for two reasons 1) it sells more of them 2) it keeps Apple from having to work with every dumb little request from law enforcement about tookie and where he got the weed. Not to mention what the prop-up-it's-own-power surveillance-state will try to do "in secret."

            There are probably MILLIONS of lawful (circumstances, or by warrant) searches of Apple phones in the US alone each year, some of them will take attention of three or four Ap

          • The FBI isn't asking for a new backdoor, they are asking to use one that Apple already created inadvertently. Call it a design flaw, but this older model phone has a flaw that allows Apple to send it a signed software update that will disable the limit on password tries.

            And if it is a 4 digit numeric pin that means only 10k possible combinations. Basically someone trying every combination manually could probably crack it in a few days assuming Apple can also update the firmware so that it can check the pa

        • ...Apple are being a bunch of dicks about...

          If I may intercede here - shouldn't we, in the interest of public decency in publishing, stop calling people 'dicks' and instead refer to them as, well, how about 'dickerels'? Hmm, or perhaps 'Richards'?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        When they *put up a fight*, is it for real, or a publicity/marketing gimmick while the press is paying attention?

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@world3.LAPLACEnet minus math_god> on Thursday February 18, 2016 @04:34AM (#51533179) Homepage

        It's because Google isn't currently fighting in court with the FBI. I'm sure his lawyers have told him to phrase it that way, in case Apple loses and Google is next. No point giving the FBI ammunition to use in future legal arguments.

        In any case, Google is in a stronger position than Apple because its secure storage on its Nexus devices has firmware in ROM. It can't be modified or updated like Apple's, so there is no way they could introduce a back door or remove protections like rate limiting or a maximum number of incorrect guesses. It's in the silicon, so the FBI's current argument won't work.

        • ts secure storage on its Nexus devices has firmware in ROM. It can't be modified or updated like Apple's

          Well, the only reason that iPhone didn't have the specialized hardware is it is 4 gens old. iPhones lead the way on specialized encryption hardware.

          I'm not an Apple fanboy, but I'm not sure what other phone to use to protect my privacy. Windows 8 was great, no one used it so no malware. But 10 is not...

          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

            Apple have the ability to update the firmware on their Secure Enclave, their implementation of secure storage. They have issued firmware updates that adjust the time delays between attempts before. That means that the firmware is in flash memory somewhere and can be updated, which is a huge security flaw.

            Check the datahsheets for other secure memories and ARM CPUs with secure storage. Very few of them have any mechanism to update the firmware, which is usually hard coded into a ROM.

            • To install a new OS patch you have to have the pin. if the Pin was known then you don't need apple's help anyways.

              If you can't update the firmware then you can't provide bug fixes. so if you do have a fault it is permanent.

              Security that can't be patched will be hacked. security that can be patched will be hacked.

              So if you can be hacked either way isn't it better to go with the one you can fix easier?

            • by gtall ( 79522 )

              "That means that the firmware is in flash memory somewhere and can be updated, which is a huge security flaw"

              You mean as opposed to being burned into the hardware where any security flaw is there forever?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 17, 2016 @10:41PM (#51532149)

      Is it too much to ask Google to simply come out in favor of privacy of its users?

      Yes. It runs counter to their business model. Google's business model is to have access to all of its product's (users) data in order to sell advertising space to its customers (advertisers). Privacy reduces Google's profits.

    • by sinij ( 911942 ) on Wednesday February 17, 2016 @10:42PM (#51532153)
      Google and privacy are not on speaking terms.
    • by BoogieChile ( 517082 ) on Wednesday February 17, 2016 @10:54PM (#51532191)

      Yeah! Don't give us that thoughtful, nuanced debate crap! We want flat-out binary statements, black and white bold, simplistic determinations, otherwise who are we going to know who to shake our pitchforks and flaming torchs at?

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Google already cooperates with the FBI. When gmail's targeted advertising scanning system detects terroristic keywords in your email it displays an ad from the FBI.
    • Google doesn't give a shit about your privacy. This whole thing is a joke. Apple and Google were the ones giving the NSA access to their user databases! If you think these mega corporations are on your side you are a fool.
      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Do you have any evidence that Apple and Google gave the NSA access? According to the Snowden leaks, the NSA, with GCHQ's help, were intercepting data as it flowed between data centres and using exploits to get into accounts.

    • by grim4593 ( 947789 ) on Wednesday February 17, 2016 @11:06PM (#51532249)
      Any statement that Google wants to make will need to be proofread by multiple people and then vetted by lawyers, not just to ensure they don't overstep some legal bounds but also to make sure there wouldn't be anything in it that the shareholders could target later if there is some backlash.
      It would not surprise me if Apple had been developing their response in anticipation to the judges request for some time.
      • It would not surprise me if Apple had been developing their response in anticipation to the judges request for some time.

        Well they're already paying lawyers to work on the case, and other similar ones (one FBI agent mentioned to an ABC reporter that he had upwards of 150 smart phones he was holding on to until a crack was available). So, why not pay a couple more billable hours to vet a policy statement?

    • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Thursday February 18, 2016 @03:31AM (#51533021) Journal

      Is it too much to ask Google to simply come out in favor of privacy of its users?

      Probably, considering that violating privacy is their primary source of income. Eric Schmidt actually came out against privacy [huffingtonpost.com].

    • Is it too much to ask Google to simply come out in favor of privacy of its users?

      Don't you think that queston is a bit naive, all considered? Google, as all companies, can only be assumed to be working in the interests of their owners, and even that is an ideal case, as we know from the all to common examples of CEOs lining their own pockets to the loss of their shareholders. Google is not you friend - they don't care about protecting your privacy or freedom, they collect people's data for their own profit; if they are unwilling to share this information, it is because they consider the

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 17, 2016 @10:39PM (#51532135)
    Google copies Apple, what a surprise :-)
  • by thoughtlover ( 83833 ) on Wednesday February 17, 2016 @10:48PM (#51532173)

    This announcement, while still unofficial as a company policy, is moving the conversation in the right direction, but if the government wants to do something, they'll do it... I can see all cockamamie reasons, such as 'aiding and abetting criminal activity.'

    I'd be the first to get a Blackphone (maybe roll-your-own-Android, if possible) if Apple caves-in regarding government-mandated backdoors. Personally, I just don't see how removing encryption from public-use would ever work. If there's ever a case where I'd rather sacrifice some convenience for security, this is it... even if it means giving up smartphones.

  • Unlike Apple, the Android platform doesn't have a device-killing Error 53.

  • and here comes Cook up the backstretch NSA going to the inside my fears are holding back we're trying not to fall Google's out of the runnin' Apple's out for another's sake the race is on and it looks like MS and the winner loses all.
  • It is pretty clear where this going to end up given there are so many ways a government can make the controlling interests of large companies suffer without harming the company's bottom line.
  • Not in China (Score:2, Interesting)

    Apple is openly defying US security orders, but in China it takes a very different approach [qz.com]

    Apple’s response to US and UK government demands for backdoors to user data has been direct, bordering on defiant. Yesterday (Feb. 16), Apple CEO Tim Cook published a letter [qz.com] explaining the company’s refusal to comply with a US federal court order to help the FBI access data on a phone recovered from one of the attackers in the San Bernardino, California shootings.

    Apple appears to take a different tack in d

    • Re:Not in China (Score:5, Insightful)

      by LordLucless ( 582312 ) on Thursday February 18, 2016 @01:09AM (#51532649)

      I'm no Apple supporter, but your comparison is (heh) apples-and-oranges. In the US, it's refusing to alter its software to allow the FBI to access private data. In China, it's allowing the government to perform a security audit of its source code - you know, just like every open source project on the planet implicitly allows China to do.

      I mean, by that standard, Linux is co-operating with Chinese attempts to violate the privacy of its users, because it publishes its source code for the government to audit (if they feel like it), too. And honestly, with this admission about the FBI coming into the open, it just goes to show how justified other governments are in demanding to examine US products for signs of government malfeasance.

      • I mean, by that standard, Linux is co-operating with Chinese attempts to violate the privacy of its users, because it publishes its source code for the government to audit (if they feel like it), too. And honestly, with this admission about the FBI coming into the open, it just goes to show how justified other governments are in demanding to examine US products for signs of government malfeasance.

        Damned if they do, damned if they don't. Another fine reason why Open Source (or better yet, Free Software) is the only direction to go. You cannot trust any box you can't look into. Hopefully someday (probably far in the future, but who knows) we'll even have open hardware to run it on. Either way, you can't trust Apple for precisely the reason you say; they give access to the source to governments, but not to everyone else. You can't trust Google Play (etc.) either, but if you're highly security-conscious

    • by rakslice ( 90330 )

      It's almost like their only value is... creating value for their shareholders.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      How is allowing China to do a security audit a bad thing? After the Snowden revelations about the NSA screwing with US products, I'd rather like to see that audit myself. Apple has basically been forced to allow it by the actions of the NSA, to restore trust.

  • Ownership (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    FTFA

    we believe the contents of your iPhone are none of our business.

    Does this mean that we own our iphones and that it is ours to hack and mod as we see fit?

  • Satya... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ZeroSerenity ( 923363 ) <gormac05@@@yahoo...com> on Thursday February 18, 2016 @12:33AM (#51532537) Homepage Journal
    You're up.
    • by mentil ( 1748130 )

      *Perks up*
      Someone actually bought a Windows Phone?! Holy shit! Where'd I put that speech I prepared...

  • The headlines for this story on various sites read "Apple refuses to comply with requests by $agency to obtain data from San Bernadino shooter's phone." If Apple has the ability to obtain any data regarding this individual, they doubtlessly should. There is no question as to whether that individual intends malice. The issue lies with "at what point will they request such data." If they are requesting data on individuals who are suspected of terrorism based on conjecture, then that is an unreasonable violati

  • And where are you, Larry and Sergei? Waiting for the unpleasantness to just go away? Shivering under the covers with the rest of your lot? Shame on you. It is nearly too late to call your side, and we are all waiting.

  • Apple should supply false keys to the FBI. When the FBI complains the backdoor doesn't work, just say "You're holding it wrong."

  • by Dahamma ( 304068 ) on Thursday February 18, 2016 @03:38AM (#51533045)

    Biased much against Google?

    Cook posted a letter yesterday, Pichai responded today. OH MY GOOD HOW COULD IT TAKE SO LONG!?

  • Besides the obvious privacy concerns, wouldn't backdoors give terrorists and other bad guys a new, incredibly useful attack vector? As soon as a common backdoor is implemented on all devices, that would immediately become the most valuable target for hackers. What if a government employee goes rogue or is "convinced" to share information on how to gain access. What about the devs who implement the backdoors? You're never going to keep that secret. As the story goes, all architects and builders of the Taj Ma

    • by Ash-Fox ( 726320 )

      Besides the obvious privacy concerns, wouldn't backdoors give terrorists and other bad guys a new, incredibly useful attack vector?

      If done correctly, it wouldn't be a very feasible attack vendor.

      What if a government employee goes rogue or is "convinced" to share information on how to gain access.

      If it's just encrypting data under a second encryption key that only say Apple has. Then, the attack vector is... Getting a warrant to get Apple to decrypt the contents of a device.

      One way to go about making it as d

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