More parties back Apple in FBI encryption dispute via court letters, amicus briefs

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Apple on Thursday picked up more outside legal support in its refusal to build custom software for the FBI, which it wants to circumvent the passcode limit on the iPhone of dead San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook.




A group of 17 technology companies filed a joint amicus brief, among them Airbnb, Kickstarter, Twitter, Square, Reddit, Medium, LinkedIn, and eBay, CNN said. Wireless carrier AT&T filed a separate brief, according to Yahoo.

As anticipated, a letter to the court was filed by David Kaye, a United Nations Special Rapporteur for freedom of expression issues. Kaye argued that encryption and online anonymity are essential to free speech, and attached a copy of a May report to the U.N. Human Rights Council on the topic.

Kaye also contended that while the U.S. government has a "clearly legitimate interest" in security, it may not have the legal authority to demand software from Apple, and there are "multiple, alternative technical and operational measures" it could use to pursue its investigation.

A joint amicus brief was meanwhile filed by a variety of cryptography and iPhone security experts, including people from universities like Stanford, Harvard, Rice, and the University of California San Diego. Of interest are Charlie Miller and Jonathan Zdziarski, well-known figures in the Apple security world.

The group's brief claims that the government's court order "endagers public safety" by forcing a company to degrade its security and open products up to surveillance. The requested tool would "almost certainly" be used on other iPhones, the brief says, and from there could potentially escape Apple's control, ending up in the hands of criminals or foreign governments.

Hackers might theoretically reverse-engineer the code to undermine Apple's passcode system, and the brief also suggests that the order could cause people to turn off automatic software updates in the worry that government spyware is installed.

Another joint amicus was submitted by several industry organizations, namely BSA/The Software Alliance, the Consumer Technology Association, the Information Technology Industry Council, and TechNet. Those groups more directly attacked the government's invocation of the All Writs Act, calling into question its interpretation and saying that it can't be used to make a company create a new product.

Addressing the potential fallout of the FBI winning, the group's brief references the 2013 leaks by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who revealed the NSA's mass surveillance apparatus in the U.S. and abroad, as well as corporate collusion. Ordering Apple to build software could cause the public to lose trust in American government and corporations, give foreign businesses an edge, and give repressive foreign governments an excuse to demand similar help, according to the organizations.

All of the legal documents are directed at a hearing coming up on March 22, in which the court order targeting Apple will be reviewed.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 12
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,190member
    Meanwhile:

    http://www.engadget.com/2016/03/03/amazon-removes-encryption-support-in-latest-fire-os-update/

    If there was any doubt that Amazon is in bed with the gov. 
    EsquireCatsbaconstangbrian greenlatifbp
  • Reply 2 of 12
    Urei1620Urei1620 Posts: 88member
    Democracy is great
  • Reply 3 of 12
    baconstangbaconstang Posts: 557member
    slurpy said:
    Meanwhile:

    http://www.engadget.com/2016/03/03/amazon-removes-encryption-support-in-latest-fire-os-update/

    If there was any doubt that Amazon is in bed with the gov. 
    Why doesn't the Feds/Amazon just mandate Amazon Echo in every home and be done with it?
  • Reply 3 of 12
    mobiusmobius Posts: 378member
    I am in support of Apple. But in the interests of fairness, impartiality, and balanced journalism I would like to know how many (if any) significant figures, groups, organisations or companies have filed amicus briefs in support of the FBI.
    brakkenbrian green
  • Reply 5 of 12
    Urei1620 said:
    Democracy is great
    The United States is a constitutional republic, not a democracy.
    brian greennetrox
  • Reply 6 of 12
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,718member
    Look at these pro-terrorist groups fighting for one phone. /sarcasm. 

    It's good that these companies step up in support of Apple. 
    brian green
  • Reply 7 of 12
    Urei1620 said:
    Democracy is great
    The United States is a constitutional republic, not a democracy.
    The best way I think of it is that the US is a democracy within the framework of a wonderful constitution. We do get to elect our representatives and can exercise freedom.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/05/13/is-the-united-states-of-america-a-republic-or-a-democracy/
    http://www.thesaurus.com/browse/democracy?s=t
  • Reply 8 of 12
    tundraboytundraboy Posts: 1,624member
    FBI Director Comey's gambit to use the courts and public opinion to force Apple to build a backdoor might have backfired; seems to me, the more people learn about encryption, the more they oppose what Comey is trying to do.

    Only incredibly stupid people (and the FBI & DOJ, I suppose) don't understand "If you break smartphones' built-in strong encryption, the bad guys can always use any of the easily available alternative strong encryption systems.  Meanwhile you have compromised everyone else's privacy and security."
    edited March 2016
  • Reply 9 of 12
    darelrexdarelrex Posts: 58member
    When I had my first of many sad, Dilbert-like jobs, in the late '80s to early '90s, we had a little free program on our Macs (yes, Macs), that would encrypt and decrypt individual files. The program's documentation contained dire warnings that there was no backdoor, and that at its strongest setting, all the computing power on Earth couldn't break it before you'd be dead of old age, or whatever snuffs you first -- so don't forget the password, or "your data is lost."

    No one seemed to have a problem with it then, and that was a freakin' quarter of a century ago. Why is everyone spazzing over it now?
  • Reply 10 of 12
    Urei1620Urei1620 Posts: 88member
    darelrex said:
    When I had my first of many sad, Dilbert-like jobs, in the late '80s to early '90s, we had a little free program on our Macs (yes, Macs), that would encrypt and decrypt individual files. The program's documentation contained dire warnings that there was no backdoor, and that at its strongest setting, all the computing power on Earth couldn't break it before you'd be dead of old age, or whatever snuffs you first -- so don't forget the password, or "your data is lost."

    No one seemed to have a problem with it then, and that was a freakin' quarter of a century ago. Why is everyone spazzing over it now?
    not everyone, just Jim Comey and his minions.
    edited March 2016 darelrex
  • Reply 12 of 12
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 21,249member
    Other governments around the world are taking notice of the encryption issue too. While not mentioning Apple specifically the French Parliament has voted to enact a law where "a private company which refuses to hand over encrypted data to an investigating authority would face up to five years in jail and a €350,000 (£270,000) fine."

    The article goes on to note that there's a couple of steps to go before it actually becomes French law (if ever) but IMHO it's only a matter of time before execs of Apple or Google or whoever become subject to jail time for thwarting some investigation in some country. A Facebook executive was already briefly jailed in Brazil for not complying with a judicial order to turn over WhatsApp messages deemed important to a drug-running investigation. Just as in the case of Apple and iOS,  Facebook said it's impossible to do as the messages are encrypted end-to-end with no way for them to intercept or read. 
    edited March 2016
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