US Tech Firms Rally Behind Apple
Economy, Sci & Tech

US Tech Firms Rally Behind Apple

Leading tech companies are rallying behind Apple—some belatedly—in its fight against a court order requiring the company to help investigators break into an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino mass shooters.
A US magistrate ordered Apple to produce software that would give investigators access to the iPhone at issue, AP reported.
Apple has until next Tuesday to challenge that ruling, setting the stage for a legal clash that could determine whether tech companies or government authorities get the final say on just how secure devices like smartphones can be.
CEO Tim Cook decried the order on Tuesday, saying it would degrade iPhone security and make users more vulnerable to online spies and thieves.
"We stand with @tim_cook and Apple (and thank him for his leadership)!" Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey wrote in a tweet Thursday afternoon.
In a statement late Thursday, Facebook said it condemns terrorism and also appreciates the essential work of law enforcement in keeping people safe. But it said it will "fight aggressively" against requirements for companies to weaken the security of their systems.
"These demands would create a chilling precedent and obstruct companies' efforts to secure their products," the statement said.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai also voiced support for Apple in a series of earlier tweets.
"Forcing companies to enable hacking could compromise users' privacy," Pichai wrote on Wednesday, adding that the case "could be a troubling precedent".
The government is not asking Apple to help break the iPhone's encryption directly, but to disable other security measures that prevent attempts to guess the phone's passcode.
Cook argues that once such a tool is available, "the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices," even as law enforcement insists that safeguards could be employed to limit its use to that particular phone.
On Tuesday, he posted a 1,117-word open letter arguing that the FBI's request might have implications "far beyond the legal case at hand."
For months, Cook has engaged in a sharp, public debate with government officials over his company's decision to shield the data of iPhone users with strong encryption—essentially locking up people's photos, text messages and other data so securely that even Apple can't get at it.
 Law-enforcement officials from FBI Director James Comey on down have complained that terrorists and criminals may use that encryption as a shield.
The case turns on an 18th-century law that the government has invoked to require private assistance with law enforcement efforts. Apple has also challenged a federal search warrant based on the same law in a Brooklyn drug case.
Apple has complied with previous orders invoking that law—the All Writs Act of 1789—although it has argued the circumstances were different.
Apple's Cook, however, declared the demand would create what amounts to a "backdoor" to Apple's encryption software.
"If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone's device to capture their data," he wrote in the open letter.
Cook also pledged respect for law enforcement and outrage over the shootings.


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