Carriers decline to join Facebook, Twitter in backing Apple's defiance of FBI

Tech heavyweights continue to gradually coalesce behind Apple, voicing support for the company's defiance of a judge's order to help the FBI hack an iPhone linked to December's San Bernardino shootings. But major U.S. wireless service providers still aren't backing Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) CEO Tim Cook.

Facebook and Twitter are among the latest to publicly back Apple, as USA Today was among the first to report. Like some other proponents of Apple's position, Facebook acknowledged the importance of fighting terror but said that fight shouldn't threaten the security of digital products and services for consumers.

"We condemn terrorism and have total solidarity with victims of terror," the world's largest social network said in a prepared statement, USA Today reported. "Those who seek to praise, promote, or plan terrorist acts have no place on our services. We also appreciate the difficult and essential work of law enforcement to keep people safe. When we receive lawful requests from these authorities we comply. However, we will continue to fight aggressively against requirements for companies to weaken the security of their systems. These demands would create a chilling precedent and obstruct companies' efforts to secure their products."

And Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey used his company's platform to join the chorus. "We stand with @tim_cook and Apple (and thank him for his leadership)!" Dorsey tweeted, adding a link to the open letter Cook posted to Apple's customers earlier this week.

Facebook and Twitter joined several other major tech players that have voice support for Cook. Google CEO Sundar Pichai posted a series of outspoken tweets, and -- in a less enthusiastic manner -- Microsoft's CEO Satya Nadella and President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith offered moderate support via Twitter. Billionaire Mark Cuban also backed Apple in an interview with TechCrunch, suggesting that new legislation could help clear up some confusion over when companies can be compelled to help authorities hack into tech systems.

Unsurprisingly, most of the nation's tier-one mobile carriers have yet to take much of a stand one way or another. Both Verizon and Sprint had no comment when contacted by FierceWireless, and a T-Mobile representative directed us to a video clip of CEO John Legere telling CNBC that Cook is in a "really, really difficult situation. The questions right now associated with national security and the horrific acts where 14 people were killed, I really don't know how to balance it," he said.

An AT&T spokesman noted a "need for legal clarity," saying legislators must address issues that arise when the development of technology outpaces laws meant to address "much less complex situations."

"Those developments also reinforce for us what we've said before, that in a democracy it is the elected representatives of the people, in this case the Congress, who should decide the proper balance between public safety and personal privacy," the spokesman said.

Similarly, mobile network operators were silent in 2013 when a slew of tech giants including Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo sent a letter to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee urging them to reform NSA surveillance policies and practices.

AT&T (NYSE: T) CEO Randall Stephenson last month publicly opposed Cook's open position against creating "backdoors" for hacking specifically for law enforcement and surveillance purposes. "I don't think it is Silicon Valley's decision to make about whether encryption is the right thing to do," Stephenson said. "I understand Tim Cook's decision, but I don't think it's his decision to make."

Apple has until Friday, Feb. 26, to argue against the court order, according to a Bloomberg report

For more:
- see this USA Today report

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