One of Apple’s senior security specialists, Jon Callas, has reportedly jumped ship to work at the American Civil Liberties Union — and for a much smaller salary.
Callas started a two-year stint as an ACLU technology fellow on Monday, Reuters said. While at Apple, he was in charge of a team that hacked into pre-release products to expose any vulnerabilities.
He may be better known, however, for co-founding PGP Corp. and Silent Circle, and being the chief scientist at Phil Zimmermann’s original PGP Inc. PGP — Pretty Good Privacy — is one of the most famous encryption standards in use.
At the ACLU Callas is expected to provide input on fairness and transparency in AI, and help fight governments that demand access to tech platforms for surveillance.
The move should, then, indirectly help Apple, which has adopted a tough stance on privacy in the U.S. The company uses strong encryption for both hardware and online communications, much to the chagrin of law enforcement and spy agencies, which have complained about devices and services “going dark” even when there’s legal backing for a search.
Some people, like U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, have called on Apple to offer some form of backdoor access, but Apple has resisted, noting that any backdoor would likely be discovered and exploited by criminals and foreign governments.
Most infamously, Apple fought with the U.S. Department of Justice over accessing the iPhone 5c of San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook, only for the DOJ to abandon the case when the FBI succeeded with a third-party forensics solution.
Callas could play a role in influencing federal privacy legislation born out of scandals like Equifax and Cambridge Analytica.