Apple has found itself in a bind dealing with the U.S. Government over its reluctance to unlock an iPhone involved in an FBI investigation. Luckily, it appears that Apple has made more friends than enemies over the years, as a group of high-profile tech companies have filed an amicus brief [PDF] in support of Apple.
Some of Apple’s most fierce competitors have thrown in their support, with Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Facebook leading the list of top tech companies who are listed in the brief. Other companies include Box, Cisco, Evernote, Mozilla, Nest Labs, Pinterest, Slack, Snapchat, WhatsApp and Yahoo.
“At stake are fundamental questions about privacy, safety, and the rule of law,” writes Microsoft Chief Legal Council Brad Smith. “The court order in support of the FBI request cites the All Writs Act, which was enacted in 1789, and last significantly amended in 1911. We believe the issues raised by the Apple case are too important to rely on a narrow statute from a different technological era to fill the Government’s perceived gap in current law.
“The fact that we’re discussing the All Writs Act across the country is a telling indication of the urgent need to update antiquated rules that govern digital technology and privacy. If we are to protect personal privacy and keep people safe, 21st century technology must be governed by 21st century legislation.”
Smith goes on to write that the consortium of tech companies respect law enforcement, but goes on to state that we must walk a fine line between complying with existing laws and keeping the privacy of customers — and the very foundation of encryption — intact.
“[It is] clear that people won’t use technology that they don’t trust,” Smith adds. “Modern laws that protect people’s most personal data are essential to building trust in technology.”
Microsoft’s Brad Smith has been a very vocal supporter of Apple in this case and has repeatedly stated that if Apple is forced to unlock the iPhone 5c in at the center of the San Bernardino case, then all tech companies are in danger of being railroaded by the U.S. Government in the name of national security. And when backdoors are open, and privacy invaded, it’s hard to stop such a fast-moving train as a legal precedent would already have been set.