A growing number of individuals and organisations have filed amicus briefs in support of Apple’s battle for the right of privacy against the FBI. As previously reported, Apple has been ordered by a Los Angeles court to decrypt the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter Rizwan Farook.
The importance of encryption for the sake of customers’ personal information is absolute
Among the tech giants standing up in defence of Apple are Twitter, Intel, eBay, Yahoo, Facebook and Google. This formidable lot is joined by various NGOs, such as the United Nations, Human Rights Watch and Privacy International, as well as over 30 legal professors.
The FBI has been unable to bypass the code lock on Farook’s smartphone as part of its investigation into the attack that killed 14 people and injured 22 others. Using the 1789 All Writs Act, the FBI has ordered Apple to remove the phone’s security features and create software that will enable the swift determination of the correct passcode. In an open letter published on February 16, Apple CEO Tim Cook argued that, while the company has shared data within its possession and assisted in other ways, the importance of encryption for the sake of customers’ personal information is absolute.
The argument Apple et al make is that, by creating software that can crack into iPhones, a precedent will be set, and such bypassing of encryption will be unlikely to stop at Farook’s device. Their legal argument goes so far as to say that, were Apple to comply with the FBI’s court order, multiple laws would be broken.
Of course, prosecuting acts of terrorism is crucial, but forcing individuals and companies to break fundamental rights is nothing short of abhorrent. The consequences of a society without privacy cannot even be imagined, particularly as the dissolution of one right could be followed by the dissolution of many others. Once the journey into such a dystopia has begun, reversion would be nigh on impossible.