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#AppleFBI letter: A PR-perfect move

This moment calls for public discussion, and we want our customers and people around the country to understand what is at stake.

Apple is fiercely opposing the FBI’s demand to build a new version of its iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features. Following the San Bernardino terror attack last December, Apple claims the authorities are pressuring the smartphone manufacturer to create a “backdoor” to the iPhone.

In an open letter to its customers, Apple has candidly put what the demand could possibly mean for personal data of customers and what its stand is.

The letter says: “Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.”

The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor.

And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control, it added.

The letter goes on to make it amply clear that despite the government suggesting this tool could only be used once, on one phone, it is simply not true.

“Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices. In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks — from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable,” it adds.

Personal data issues are tricky and at a time discussions around its protection are aplenty, Apple makes makes a bold statement. Read these lines for example. “The government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers — including tens of millions of American citizens — from sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals.”

“The same engineers who built strong encryption into the iPhone to protect our users would, ironically, be ordered to weaken those protections and make our users less safe.”

The way Apple has articulated, makes its stand amply clear and in rallying customers around the issue with a straightforward note, it has set an example of what customer centricity truly is. To keep customers close, being honest, factual and accurate in your communication and then taking a stance is the basics of PR, especially in tricky situations. Tim Cook does all of that in this letter.

As a result, the likes of Google have chimed in as well.

Joseph Barratt, managing director  of Mutant Communications said: “As consumers, we trust these big companies to protect our personal information with the tightest security measures possible, and what Apple has done here is to take a leadership role in this debate.”

The move helps to position the brand as one who cares about consumers and their privacy. Importantly this helps to strengthen ties with a tech-savvy audience.  “Furthermore, this helps effectively position Apple as a leader and opens the possibilities for other large technology companies to follow suit when faced with these demands from the authorities,” he added.

“A brand is a promise both made and kept,” Nick Foley of Landor said, addding that “trust, character and competence make a brand.”

“If Apple gives in, it will have ramifications for its brand promise to customers.  Apple, therefore, has done the right thing by keeping customers in the loop of what is happening,” he said.

Tim Cook’s letter has got netizens talking as well. Here’s a round up.


 
Rayana Pandey
Editor
Marketing Magazine Singapore
An international business journalist, Rayana has been in Singapore for eight years and loves everything about the city-state - well, almost, with hor fun and popiah topping the list. A part-time actor and a social volunteer, you’ll find her out and about either on stage honing her public speaking skills or back stage volunteering for the National Day Parade or Chingay. Travel, meaningful conversations and meeting new people keep her going.

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