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BlackBerry CEO says Apple's security stance puts company over 'greater good'

Despite having similar on-device encryption and claiming to protect users' data vigorously, BlackBerry CEO John Chen slammed Apple chief Tim Cook in a Tuesday sppech, sugesting that Cook was putting his company's reputation "above the greater good."




"One of our competitors, we call it 'the other fruit company,' has an attitude that it doesn't matter how much it might hurt society, they're not going to help," said Chen during a question-and-answer session at the BlackBerry Security Summit, according to The Inquirer. "I found that disturbing as a citizen," he added. "I think BlackBerry, like any company, should have a basic civil responsibility. If the world is in danger, we should be able to help out."

Chen cautioned that there do need to be "clear guidelines," altering the conversation's trajectory after a follow-up question. "The guidelines we've adopted require legal assets. A subpoena for certain data. But if you have the data, you should give it to them."

Despite Chen's attitude regarding the Department of Justice's battle with Apple this spring, the CEO said he disagrees with the premise of lawmakers seeking mandatory encryption workarounds. "There's proposed legislation in the US, and I'm sure it will come to the E.U., that every vendor needs to provide some form of a back door," he noted. "That is not going to fly at all. It just isn't."

In a post to the official BlackBerry blog in December 2015, Chen took swipes at Apple for refusing to unlock a meth dealer's phone in New York City. In the post, Chen used language similar to that at the Security Summit, saying that "we are indeed in a dark place when companies put their reputations above the greater good."

Contrary to Chen's claims and implications, Apple has complied with thousands of search warrants seeking customer data. Apple does provide information it holds when it considers an order to be valid, and has a rapid response team for such matters.

During the investigation of the San Bernadino shootings in December 2015, Apple's team provided initial data and assistance to the FBI less than three days after a request was made. Follow-up requests by the FBI for more information were often replied to within the same day.

The shooter's iPhone 5c had been prevented from making further iCloud backups after discovery by the FBI, because of a password request made by the city of San Bernardino at the behest of law enforcement. Chen is taking issue with Cook's refusal to order Apple engineers to build and maintain a tool allowing the FBI access to the encrypted iPhone.

At the time of the court order mandating that Apple unlock the device, Cook said that "the U.S. 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."

Ultimately, the FBI found an alternate way to penetrate the iPhone. The hack cost the agency more than $1.34 million, according to director James Comey. No useful data was found.