In rejecting a court order obtained by the FBI to ask it to create a backdoor into the iOS operating system, Apple has done what no other technology company has done – asked the government to choose whether the interests of the people at large are important or whether its desire to snoop takes precedence.
The most shameful thing about this is that no other big entity has stood up and joined Apple in asking the government to stop its fishing expedition. The biggest player in the mobile market, Google, has made a wishy-washy statement that what the FBI has done is a troubling precedent.
But in not coming out in support of Apple openly, it has sided with the government. However given that Google is practically an arm of the US State Department, one did not expect any acts of courage to be shown.
Microsoft is silent too. The courage it showed in refusing to release the contents of an email server in Ireland to the government appears to have vanished.
Facebook, likewise. Mark Zuckerberg may talk a lot, but it is all mere bluster. Samsung, IBM and Yahoo! have also kept quiet and thus support the government.
Cook's letter to customers is a masterpiece. It is the most wonderful piece of marketing, the best message for the company that anyone can put out.
For the uninformed, the FBI has asked Apple to create a backdoor for its mobile operating system so that it can use brute force — random guessing — to find out what is on an iPhone belonging to one of the people who staged an attack in San Bernardino, California, last year.
Cook's letter puts it very simply: "But now the US government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone."
And he goes on to say that while the FBI is asking only for one phone to be broken, that is the beginning of the end of proper security for consumers. After that, it will be open slather.
In some places, Cook sounds more like the maverick US presidential candidate wanna-be Bernie Sanders: "Opposing this order is not something we take lightly. We feel we must speak up in the face of what we see as an overreach by the US government."
Technology consultant Richard Forno, a veteran in the security industry and one who has worked for the government as well, pointed out that while the FBI is demanding a backdoor, "the NSA director Admiral Mike Rogers has already stated publicly there is no need for such backdoors or law enforcement access, and that strong internet security features are more of a benefit than risk to society".
Apple has the resources, both legal and monetary, to take this fight all the way to the Supreme Court. There will be no more defining moment in the technology industry than the moment when this case is decided.