apple, mobitel (bolja).jpg
Photograph: Photo by Kārlis Dambrāns, used under CC BY

The heads of Google and WhatsApp Thursday threw their support behind Apple as it takes on a US government order to hack its own iPhone security, even as other leading tech voices remained silent in the debate.

In a series of Twitter posts overnight Thursday, Google chief executive Sundar Pichai agreed that "forcing companies to enable hacking could compromise users' privacy."

Pichai acknowledged the "significant challenges" faced by law enforcement fighting crime and terrorism. But he drew a line between tech companies giving up data in compliance with court orders and requiring them to enable hacking of customer devices and data.

"Could be a troubling precedent," he wrote.

WhatsApp chief executive Jan Koum agreed, writing on Facebook that "we must not allow this dangerous precedent to be set. Today our freedom and our liberty is at stake."

A US federal judge on Tuesday ordered Apple to help the FBI crack the encryption on an iPhone linked to the San Bernardino, California, terror attack. The FBI believes there may be data encrypted on the device that could help their investigation.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook refused the judge's order in an open letter posted on the company's website Tuesday.

"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," Cook wrote. Such a move would "undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect."

The December 2 attack in San Bernardino was carried out by Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, at a holiday party at the county office where Farook worked. Fourteen people were killed.

Police killed Farook and Malik later that same day in a shoot-out.

The FBI wants Apple to help it hack into Farook's iPhone by disabling a security feature that destroys data stored on the device after ten failed password entries, so that the agency can program a computer to try all possible passwords until it finds the right one.

The White House Wednesday called the case an "important national priority." Spokesman Josh Earnest downplayed the request, saying investigators were simply asking for a way in to this single device.

But Cook said there was no way to guarantee those limits, and that cracking this device "would undeniably create a backdoor" to all iPhones and other encrypted Apple devices.

The digital privacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation and the leading rights group American Civil Liberties Union said it would help Apple in its legal fight against the order.

Executives from Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter had yet to comment publicly.

Related stories

Apple, FBI headed for showdown over San Bernardino encryption

Gates breaks with Apple, Google on FBI phone order

Apple: Court must reverse "dangerous" FBI order

FBI opens iPhone without Apple's help

Apple case delayed as FBI tries its own iPhone hack

Apple and FBI to face off in court

Latest news

Croat member of Bosnia's state presidency says crisis won't escalate

The Croat member of Bosnia and Herzegovina's collective State Presidency, Dragan Covic, said on Friday that the crisis caused by the unilateral submission of a request for a review of the International Court of Justice's (ICJ) genocide ruling from 2007 against Serbia would not escalate into an armed conflict.

IAEA: Iran's enriched uranium stock far below allowed limit

Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium is currently less than half of what is allowed under the Islamic Republic's nuclear agreement with major powers, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported Friday.

Trump attacks media at conservative gathering

US President Donald Trump lambasted the media in remarks to a gathering of conservative activists outside Washington Friday, doubling down on charges that some parts of the press are the "enemy."

Birth anniversary of Croatia's 1st female journalist to be marked

The Centre for Women's Studies, which manages the Marija Juric Zagorka Memorial Apartment and carries out documentary-information, educational and cultural activities related to the study and promotion of the heritage of this novelist and Croatia's first female journalist, stated on Friday that it was marking the 144th anniversary of the birth of Marija Juric Zagorka next week.

Italian police arrest 55 doctors, nurses for being clock-in cheats

Police on Friday arrested 55 doctors, nurses, and other staffers at a Naples public hospital for being clock-in cheats.

Works on new section of Istrian Y motorway in autumn, says minister

Transport and Infrastructure Minister Oleg Butkovic said on Friday works on the second stage of the Istrian Y motorway were expected to begin in the autumn, an investment of EUR 150 million in which Croatian companies would be included.

SDP leader: Brexit, Europe's cross road

Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Davor Bernadic on Friday said at a conference of the Party of European Socialists (PES) that Great Britain's exit is a cross-road for the European Union (EU).

Erdogan, in campaign mode, floats referendum on death penalty

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, while campaigning Friday for a referendum on a constitutional reform package to empower his office, suggested he could put forward another popular vote to reintroduce the death penalty.

S Africa opposition sues government for not arresting Sudan president

South Africa’s main opposition party Friday filed criminal charges against several government and police officials for failing in 2015 to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court.

Project Slavonia one of key government goals, PM says

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on Friday opened the 22nd international fair of the economy, trades and crafts and agriculture Viroexpo 2017, saying it fit into one of the government's key goals, work on Project Slavonia.

Germany says Russia plan for Reichstag replica 'speaks for itself'

A Russian plan to construct a replica of the Reichstag so that military enthusiasts can re-enact the Red Army's 1945 capture of Berlin is "surprising and speaks for itself," a German government spokeswoman said Friday.

Transport minister does not rule out higher motorway tolls

Commenting on a planned rise in tolls for motorways managed by the state-run HAC motorway operator, Maritime, Transport and Infrastructure Minister Oleg Butkovic on Friday recalled that HAC's debt totalled EUR 5.2 billion, and 1.2 billion of that amount was due this year, which HAC could not pay back from its revenues.