Briefs: In Apple v. FBI, Everyone Loves Apple

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We’ve covered the Apple versus FBI phone encryption saga extensively here, coming down solidly on the side of Apple standing firm in its refusal to build the FBI a back door into the iPhone. It really isn’t a hard position to take, given that on the other side, we have arguments like this:

The San Bernardino District Attorney told a federal judge late Thursday that Apple must assist the authorities in unlocking the iPhone used by Syed Farook, one of the two San Bernardino shooters that killed 14 people in a killing rampage in December. […]

“The iPhone is a county owned telephone that may have connected to the San Bernardino County computer network. The seized iPhone may contain evidence that can only be found on the seized phone that it was used as a weapon to introduce a lying dormant cyber pathogen that endangers San Bernardino’s infrastructure,” according to a court filing.

Well, guess you have to come up with something when everyone else with any understanding of the implications of this issue is arrayed against you. Apple is tracking all the amicus briefs filed on its behalf; here are some of the highlights.

The ACLU was the first to file, noting that “Congress has deliberately withheld from the government the authority to require technology companies to circumvent the security protections in their devices.” Yep.

Several cloud service providers, including Dropbox, Box, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft filed a joint brief pointing out that, although they usually view Apple as a competitor, they stand in solidarity with Apple in believing that the government’s demand that Apple break its own encryption scheme would endanger the security of all Americans in the long run.

Companies like Kickstarter and Airbnb, where the nature of their business requires them to hold personal and financial data, pointed out that “the government seeks unbounded authority to compel Apple to design software that does not currently exist and that will circumvent and undermine security measures intended to protect its users’ data.” At root, those services are concerned, and rightly so, with the possibility that forced backdoors will erode user trust, which would decrease usage.

Privacy International and Human Rights Watch note that encryption and other security features “are integral to the protection of civil and human rights.” Under repressive regimes, the brief goes on to state, the availability of secure technology for journalists, human rights workers, and political activists is critical.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, along with a number of technology researchers and cryptographers, expressed concern that this order implicates the First Amendment by compelling Apple programmers to write code against their expressed wishes.

All of these concerns are not only valid, they’re critical. Hopefully the amicus pile-on continues and the court sees the light.

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