Apple has officially requested a federal court judge rescind her order forcing the Cupertino company to aid the FBI in breaking the encryption on the iPhone of a terrorist.
The Cupertino company on Thursday filed a motion to dismiss the court order which would compel the firm to unlock the iPhone 5c of one of the attackers who carried out the deadly Dec. 2 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif.
The order to help the FBI, which came last Tuesday, tells Apple it must provide “reasonable technical assistance” to law enforcement in the recovery of the phone’s data.
“If Apple can be forced to write code in this case to bypass security features and create new accessibility, what is to stop the government from demanding that Apple write code to turn on the microphone in aid of government surveillance, activate the video camera, surreptitiously record conversations, or turn on location services to track the phone’s user?” Apple’s motion reads. “Nothing.”
Apple is not alone in its quest, either. A number of tech firms are planning to make official submissions supporting Apple’s stance.
Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith, during a U.S. House Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday, announced his firm would next week be filing an amicus brief to support Apple’s position.
Smith pointed out that technology laws are severely outdated — the All Writs Act being used in the Apple versus FBI case was passed by Congress and written in 1911.
“Put simply, we do not believe that courts should seek to resolve issues of 21st-century technology with law that was written in the era of the adding machine. We need 21st-century laws that address 21st-century technology issues. And we need these laws to be written by Congress,” Smith said.
“We, therefore, agree wholeheartedly with Apple that the right place to bring this discussion is here, to the House of Representatives and the Senate so the people who are elected by the people can make these decisions.”
Facebook, Google, Twitter and Amazon are apparently working on a joint submission supporting Apple’s stance as well.
“The industry is aligned on this issue and Facebook is participating in a joint submission with other technology companies,” a Facebook spokeswoman told Computerworld.
The submission does not come as a surprise given that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Google CEO Sundar Piachi have all spoken out in support of Apple.
Apple, in its filing to the court, is expressing the views of a number of its fellow tech firms that the court order sets a dangerous precedent.
“The order demanded by the government compels Apple to create a new operating system—effectively a ‘back door’ to the iPhone—that Apple believes is too dangerous to build,” Apple writes in its filing.
It goes on to say:
Specifically, the government would force Apple to create newsoftware with functions to remove security features and add a new capability to theoperating system to attack iPhone encryption, allowing a passcode to be inputelectronically. This would make it easier to unlock the iPhone by “brute force,” tryingthousands or millions of passcode combinations with the speed of a modern computer.In short, the government wants to compel Apple to create a crippled and insecure product. Once the process is created, it provides an avenue for criminals and foreignagents to access millions of iPhones. And once developed for our government, it is only a matter of time before foreign governments demand the same tool.
It also says that:
…the unprecedented order requested by the governmentfinds no support in the law and would violate the Constitution. Such an order wouldinflict significant harm—to civil liberties, society, and national security—and would preempt decisions that should be left to the will of the people through laws passed byCongress and signed by the President.
Apple CEO Tim Cook, earlier this week, said the issue should be decided by Congress.
“We feel the best way forward would be for the government to withdraw its demands under the All Writs Act and, as some in Congress have proposed, form a commission or other panel of experts on intelligence, technology and civil liberties to discuss the implications for law enforcement, national security, privacy and personal freedoms,” Cook said. “Apple would gladly participate in such an effort.”