After backing up Apple’s stance on the need for strong iPhone encryption with statements in previous days, the most important tech companies in the world including Apple rivals and partners have filed an amicus brief with the court, further supporting the iPhone maker. Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and a slew of other companies have expressed their support for strong encryption and the need to protect the customer’s privacy.
Privately, tech execs do worry about what backing Apple means in this high-profile case with a link to terrorism. But in official documentation, tech companies are ready to express their full support for Apple, as well as the worry that such requests from government agencies could be detrimental to the security of their products.
“The government is not just asking companies to do what they do in the normal course of business; the government is asking companies to change how they do business,” Amazon, Box, Cisco, Dropbox, Evernote, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Mozilla, Nest, Pinterest, Slack, Snapchat, WhatsApp, and Yahoo wrote in their joint filing.
The companies said they do not condone terrorism, but argued that mobile devices are almost an extension of our minds. “[Cell] phones are the way we organize and remember the things that are important to us; they are, in a very real way, an extension of our memories. And as a result, to access someone’s cell phone is to access their innermost thoughts and their most private affairs.”
These were not the only technology companies that filed documents with the court that will hear the FBI vs. Apple case. AT&T filed an amicus brief of its own, and so did Intel.
Other Internet companies have also released a joint amicus brief detailing their support for Apple on the matter. Airbnb, Atlassian, Automattic, CloudFlare, eBay, GitHub, Kickstarter, LinkedIn, Mapbox, Medium, Meetup, Reddit, Square, Squarespace, Twilio, Twitter and Wickr joined forces in this amicus brief.
One of the points these companies made concerns the precedent, suggesting the government could easily target any other company with similar requests in the future.
“It would set a dangerous precedent, creating a world in which the government could simply force companies to create, design, and redesign their systems to allow law enforcement access to data, instead of requiring the government to use the measures, and meet the requirements, of legislatively enacted statutory schemes,” they said.
Notably absent is Samsung. Bloomberg said the South Korean giant supports encryption and user privacy, but will not commit to an amicus brief.
“Protecting our customers’ privacy is extremely important, but we have not decided whether to file an amicus brief in the current case,” the company told Bloomberg in a statement. “Ensuring trust in our products and services is our top priority. Our phones are embedded with encryption that protects privacy and content, and they do not have backdoors. When required to do so, and within the law, we work with law enforcement agencies. However, any requirement to create a backdoor could undermine consumers’ trust.”
Apple listed all the amicus briefs it received in the case so far on its website (see this link), with the list also including several security researchers and privacy advocates.
A court hearing that will determine whether Apple has to comply with the FBI’s request is set for March 22nd.