There’s a subtext to Apple’s decision not to cooperate with the FBI.

They’ve more likely modelled the consequences for their reputation of voluntary agreement.

If they agreed this time, it would flood Apple with requests in future.

They’d become a de facto moral arbiter and that is a very uncomfortable place for a brand.

Apple’s calculation is that by resisting, they embed the idea that they champion privacy, which in brand terms is a positive and makes a virtue of inaction.  That is a far more comfortable and manageable place to be.

If the FBI force their hand, they will now be able to comply from a stated position of reluctance and fend off the idea that they have made a choice.

If they cooperated voluntarily they would be inundated forever with headline-grabbing requests from the public and other agencies.

For example: “FAMILY IN TURMOIL AS APPLE REFUSES ACCESS TO PRECIOUS PHOTOS ON GRANDMOTHER’S PHONE.” “HEARTLESS APPLE DENIES FATHER’S DYING WISH.”

Many of the requests would make for very uncomfortable and time-consuming choices.

As a lightweight corollary, look at Twitter’s decision recently on something as anodyne and ludicrous as removing their blue tick from a user.

Twitter attracted all sorts of misleading and disproportionate headlines, accusing it of adjudicating over matters of freedom of speech, which of course it wasn’t, but do you seem my point?

Brands play arbiter or ‘God’ – or get anywhere near doing so – at their peril.

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