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Apple taking important stand on personal liberty
Suppose you go to the store and buy a lock box.
As you check out, you notice it comes with three keys.
You get two of them, the clerk explains, but the other one goes to the government.
You might be a little nervous about keeping your cash or birth certificates in that box, regardless of how much you trusted the government.
Now replace the manufacturer of the lockbox with Apple and the key with specially created software, and you may have a little sympathy with Tim Cook, CEO of the world's most valuable company.
He's defying, so far, a judges order to assist investigators in unlocking an iPhone owned by one of the terrorists involved in the San Bernardino mass shootings.
Some news outlets latched onto a report that Apple complied with 70 earlier orders to obtain data off of locked iPhones, but there's an important difference.
Since Apple introduced iOS 8, even Apple itself can't break into users' files.
The government actually isn't asking it to do so, but to write new software to defeat a feature that locks the phone if too many incorrect passwords are entered.
If forced to do so, there's danger that the software could escape into the wild, threatening security of information on every iPhone in the world, Cook argues.
Other tech giants are supporting Apple.
"We stand with @tim_cook and Apple (and thank him for his leadership)!" tweeted Jack Dorsey, Twitter CEO Thursday afternoon. Facebook said it condemns terrorism and supports law enforcement, but will "fight aggressively" against requirements for companies to weaken the security of their systems.
"Forcing companies to enable hacking could compromise users' privacy," Google CEO Sundar Pichai tweeted as well.
Not everyone supports Apple's stand, saying it places higher value on privacy than national security.
A former National Security Agency and another Brookings Institution fellow said Apple's "self-presentation as crusading on behalf of the privacy of its customers is largely self-congratulatory nonsense."
But we're not sure anyone associated with the NSA is an authority on the civil liberties Cook supporters are trying to protect.
Radical Islamic terrorists want to destroy our society because they hate our freedoms and personal liberty.
We must not, however, continue to tolerate further steps to restrict that freedom and liberty in the name of national security.