Apple hasn’t done enough to publicly present its side of the current privacy standoff with the FBI, concerning whether or not it should build an iPhone backdoor, claims Andrea “Andy” Cunningham, Steve Jobs’ former publicist.
“I think [Steve] would’ve spent more time framing the issue for the [public] than I think [Apple under Tim Cook has] done so far,” Cunningham says.
In particular, Cunningham thinks Apple hasn’t done enough to convince people that this is a precedent case — which will be used to push forward future legislation — rather than just about helping hack one iPhone, which the likes of Bill Gates have suggested.
“Everybody talks about this being a privacy issue and, to me, it’s not privacy at all,” Cunningham said. “It’s a precedent case.”
Cunningham was never directly employed by Apple, although she worked with Jobs from 1983 onwards, during both his original stint at Apple and later at NeXT and Pixar. She notably collaborated on the Macintosh launch plan, while employed at PR agency Regis McKenna, and later founded her own Cunningham Communication, Inc.
Despite being out of the Apple loop (no pun intended) for a while now, Cunningham makes it clear that she sides with the company in its fight against the FBI. In the new interview, which she conducted with the Chicago Tribune, Cunningham likens the creation of a “govOS” to a fictitious “situation in China … where the government wants a company to develop a bomb that they don’t want to develop.”
I partly agree with Cunningham’s assessment — although it’s very easy to fall back on the lazy “Steve Jobs would have done X, Y, and Z better” argument. As charismatic as Cook can be when he’s interviewed, he did look noticeably nervous when he talked about the FBI case at Monday’s keynote. Steve Jobs, meanwhile, was an unrivaled public speaker, and I have no doubt that an impassioned speech from him could have helped convince large numbers of people to side with Apple.
But it’s also difficult to imagine Jobs allowing his lieutenants to write editorials in the paper or appear on television to talk about the issue as Cook did when Craig Federighi was allowed to publish a recent editorial in the Washington Post, or Eddy Cue did when he gave a Spanish language interview to Univision News. Jobs may have been a better public speaker than Cook, but Apple’s position has been bolstered by having so many different voices speaking out about the same issue.
As Cult of Mac editor Leander Kahney wrote this week, Tim Cook has also shown himself to be more than willing to speak out about non-product issues during his tenure as CEO than Jobs was — which included an letter on the subject of user privacy, in which Cook argued that the FBI’s proposals risk undermining “the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.”
And, hey, with public opinion increasingly turning in favor of Apple and the Justice Department cancelling its face-off with Apple in federal court at the last minute, it’s difficult to argue that Apple’s not doing something right.
Do you think that Apple has pursued the right strategy in its FBI privacy clash — or is this one instance where Jobs’ absence from the company is most keenly noted? Leave your comments below.