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Following Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s vague series of tweets yesterday, Hiroshi Lockheimer, senior vice president of Android, Chrome OS and Chromecast, has come out and offered his own opinion on Apple’s battle with the government on national security versus user privacy. Earlier this week, a U.S. judge ruled that Apple must help the FBI obtain data from a passcode-locked iPhone 5c used by one of the gunmen in the fatal San Bernardino shooting. Apple CEO Tim Cook then responded by posting an open letter on Apple’s homepage saying that Apple would not comply with the court’s request.

Although Lockheimer’s responses are just as vague as Pichai’s, he does seem to agree with Cook and Apple…

When asked for his opinion in an interview with Bloomberg, Lockheimer explained that it’s a complicated issue, but that Google focuses on building “really secure products” and that it works with law enforcement agencies to give data when requested. He noted, however, that what Apple is being asked to do is “a completely different scenario” in that the company is essentially being asked to “hack their product.”

We focus on building really secure products. If requested or demanded by agencies of course based on proper legal process we would make information available to them. But I think what we are talking about here is a completely different scenario, where we, the tech industry, or I guess in this case Apple, is being asked — it sounds like — to help in hacking their product.  I think that is a very different scenario from the way things work today. I think that requires a lot of discussion and debate. It’s an important decision.

I have a lot of respect for law enforcement and of course I don’t have any respect for criminals. That not what this is about I think it’s more about a completely new way of thinking about things and we really need to debate that.

As he got pressed harder, Lockheimer’s responses became even more vague. When asked about the opponents of Apple’s decision claiming that the company is protecting criminals and putting innocent lives at risk, the Google executive simply explained that “it’s a new area and I think it warrants more discussion to be sure.”

Lockheimer was then asked what Google would do if it were an Android device, not an iPhone, in question. Lockheimer really didn’t answer the question, though, instead again saying that we need to “think this trough a little but more and have that debate.”

Finally, Lockheimer was asked about Edward Snowden’s comments. Snowden said that the San Bernardino/Apple case will be “the most important tech case in a decade.”

I think it’s about privacy which I think everyone agrees is important. It’s easy to talk about these cases in general terms, but the specifics do matter. I am not familiar with the specifics of the San Bernardino/Apple situation. It’s hard for me to comment on that but it does feel like an important area that does require more discussion.

Like I explained yesterday, it’s somewhat troubling to see Google executives be so vague on this issue when other tech companies and organizations are coming out with straightforward and firm responses. Nevertheless, it’s pleasing that Google is acknowledging the case. Albeit very vaguely.

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About the Author

Chance Miller


Chance currently writes for both 9to5Google and 9to5Mac, in addition to 9to5Toys.