Lots of tech companies talk about privacy, and indeed in this case many other major tech firms, including Microsoft and even Google, have come out in solidarity with Apple's stance. But there's a difference between saying and doing.
I also couldn't help but notice that there was a fair gap between Apple's statement and most the supportive comments, as if they were looking to see who else would commit themselves before jumping in. In fact, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowdentweeted on 17 Feb 2016 at 4:43pm that "silence means @google picked a side, but it's not the public's", and Google boss Sundar Pichai's admittedly admirable responsecame more than seven hours later.
1/5 Important post by @tim_cook. Forcing companies to enable hacking could compromise users' privacy- sundarpichai (@sundarpichai) February 17, 2016
Apple is powerful enough to stand up to overreaching governmental prying, and it has a business model that depends on loyal customers that love the company and its products so much that they are willing to pay more than the going rate for their smartphone. It also makes sense for the company, from a PR point of view, to act in a way that highlights Google's philosophy.
Apple has the means, and it has the motive, to safeguard its users' privacy.
Latest developments in Apple/FBI privacy battle
Update, 6 May 2016: Up until this point Apple has given the impression that iPhone models equipped with a Secure Enclave - the iPhone 5s and later, in other words, but not the iPhone 5c at the centre of the San Bernardino case - are effectively uncrackable if protected by a passcode, and that even Apple's own staff cannot bypass iOS's anti-brute-force protections. But a new revelation puts that theory in doubt.
According to the LA Times, police hired a hacker earlier this year to break into a passcode-protected iPhone 5s - a device with a Secure Enclave - and the hacker was successful. (The phone was owned by April Jace, the victim in a high-profile suspected murder case.) This occurred during the same period when Apple and the FBI were disputing whether Apple should be obliged to open up an iPhone 5c in a separate case.
The LAPD's actions are outlined in a search warrant written up by LAPD detective Connie Zych, who stated that the department found a "forensic cellphone expert" who could "override the locked iPhone function". The force has thus far declined to provide any more detail than that - the identity of the expert, the method used, the information recovered - and as with the FBI case, conspiracy theorists will speculate about whether it actually happened.
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