Stance on Privacy Over San Bernardino Killer’s iPhone Could Define Legacy of Apple CEO

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Unlike his predecessor Steve Jobs, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook has never shied away from taking a political and social stand.

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks onstage as Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights hosts the 2015 Ripple Of Hope Awards honoring Congressman John Lewis, Cook, Evercore Co-founder Roger Altman, and UNESCO Ambassador Marianna Vardinoyannis in New York City on Dec. 8, 2015. (Credit: Theo Wargo/Getty Images for RFK Human Rights)

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks onstage as Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights hosts the 2015 Ripple Of Hope Awards honoring Congressman John Lewis, Cook, Evercore Co-founder Roger Altman, and UNESCO Ambassador Marianna Vardinoyannis in New York City on Dec. 8, 2015. (Credit: Theo Wargo/Getty Images for RFK Human Rights)

He was the first head of a Fortune 500 company to come out as gay. He pledged to one day donate his personal fortune to charity, and he talks passionately about the importance of social justice, diversity and the environment.

But it's his hard-line stance on privacy that could define his legacy at Apple and set the tone for the way big corporations deal with big government at a time when so much of our lives unfold on the devices we use every day.

How far Cook is willing to take the fight is being tested on a national level now. He ramped up the debate Wednesday when he publicly and vehemently opposed a federal judge's order to provide access to encrypted data on an iPhone belonging to the terrorist couple who killed 14 people in San Bernardino last year.

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