Does It Matter Why Apple is Opposing the FBI?
There are some people complaining that Apple's defiance of the FBI wanting them to build a special version of iOS with a backdoor for them to access people's data is nothing more than a publicity stunt.
While I think Greenwald has a point, I would argue that it's not relevant to say that a majority of Americans oppose Apple's stance. What matters is what Apple's actual and potential customers think. If such a poll were taken I'm willing to bet it would be the opposite result. With that in mind it may very well be true that Apple's stand is less principled and more pragmatic, but that's not a problem in and of itself. It was revealed in the Edward Snowden disclosures that Apple, along with basically every other tech company, was essentially aiding the U.S. government in collecting the metadata of their customers and there was a backlash from a large segment of those customers around the world as a result.
So there is almost certainly some level of damage control and public relations going into this decision for Apple to so publicly defy the U.S. government on this issue, but the important thing is that they are defying them. I would absolutely prefer that Apple had never aided the U.S. government in spying on their customers and that they took a consistent principled position against such spying, but it's already too late for that. The next best thing is that they reverse their position and do everything they can to now protect people's privacy, and that's what's happening.
It's going to take companies like Apple reversing course and challenging the government for anything to actually change for the better, because the government is not going to give up its power without a fight. Companies like Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and others have the leverage and resources to challenge the government in ways individuals simply can't.
Furthermore, this is just evidence that the free market works. The backlash from their customers led Apple to change their practices because the cost of continuing to aid the government was too high. People won't buy their products if they think Apple is going to help the government spy on them. This is simply a perfect example of the profit incentive convincing a huge company to change course for the better.
Apple aided the government before not necessarily because they wanted to, but likely because the cost of opposing the government was considered too high especially when their customers had no idea they were doing it in the first place. However, thanks to Edward Snowden the cost of opposing the government is less than the cost of helping them. Imagine the uproar from their customers if another Snowden came along and showed that they were still helping the government. It'd be much worse for them than it was the first time.
So it is absolutely likely that Apple opposing the FBI is based at least in part on PR and repairing their reputation, but that's not a bad thing. They did something wrong and now they're trying to make amends and show their current customers and potential customers that they take their privacy rights seriously. That they hope to make a profit based on their current position shouldn't be a mark against them.