The chief executive of Google and the founder of WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging service, have voiced their support for Apple in its fight with the FBI over encryption.
Apple said it would challenge a federal court order to unblock an iPhone used by one of the shooters in the San Bernardino terror attack as the FBI tries to investigate their links to Isis militants.
Tim Cook, Apple chief executive, has condemned the demand that it remove security features and write new operating software for the device, saying it is “an over-reach by the US government” with “chilling implications” on customer privacy and security.
His tough stance won plaudits from privacy campaigners but Apple’s peers and rivals in Silicon Valley were initially silent on the issue.
Jan Koum, the co-founder of WhatsApp and a Facebook board member, was the first Silicon Valley executive to speak up in approval of Apple’s position. In a Facebook post, Mr Koum said he “couldn’t agree more with everything said in [Apple’s] customer letter today”.
“We must not allow this dangerous precedent to be set. Today, our freedom and our liberty is at stake,” he wrote.
Later on Wednesday, Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Alphabet subsidiary Google, also spoke out, calling Mr Cook’s letter “important”.
“Forcing companies to enable hacking could compromise users’ privacy,” Mr Pichai said in a series of tweets.
While Google, like other tech companies, co-operates with law enforcement in criminal investigations, he said that was “wholly different than requiring companies to enable hacking of customer devices and data”, which “could be a troubling precedent”.
On Thursday, Facebook added its voice to the steadily growing public opposition in tech circles, more than 36 hours after Tim Cook issued his strident rejection.
In a statement that did not mention Apple or the San Bernardino case by name, the social networking company said it would “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.”
In the past, Facebook has itself faced criticism for failing to police its site and do more to block accounts of ISIS sympathisers.
Like other big tech companies, it expressed support for the law enforcement agencies and said: “Those who seek to praise, promote, or plan terrorist acts have no place on our services.”
Jack Dorsey, chief executive of Twitter, also went public with a show of support for Apple on Thursday, with a brief tweet: “We stand with @tim_cook and Apple (and thank him for his leadership)!”