Why even Apple’s mortal enemies are lining up to protest U.S. government overreach

“More than two dozen technology companies said Thursday that they stand with Apple in its battle with the FBI, by filing ‘friend of the court’ briefs supporting the tech firm,” Hayley Tsukayama reports for The Washington Post. “Notably, a group including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo and Amazon filed together, agreeing with Apple’s position that the government request to have Apple write code that weakens its security protocols on its iPhone operating system oversteps its authority.”

“It’s obvious that many of those companies compete not only with Apple, but also with each other,” Tsukayama reports. “So why come together in support of a business rival?”

“Box chief executive Aaron Levie, whose cloud-storage company signed onto the brief with Google and others, said there is a clear reason that Silicon Valley is so engaged here: they believe the precedent set in this case affects all of their businesses,” Tsukayama reports. “Tech firms are eager to have this conversation, he said, because many believe the FBI’s request threatens the foundations of all software and product security.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: It’s amazing that the U.S. government calculated that they could get away with this. Americans are not dumbed-down nearly enough yet, it seems.

Apple’s best defense against the FBI is the one it can’t share publicly – March 4, 2016
San Bernardino DA: Terrorist’s county-owned iPhone could contain ‘dormant cyber pathogen’ or something – March 4, 2016
U.N. Human Rights Commissioner: U.S. government risks opening a Pandora’s Box in Apple iPhone case – March 4, 2016
Former U.S. Homeland Security Chief: iPhone override would be software equivalent of biological weapon – March 4, 2016
U.S. Congressman introduces bill to forbid federal agencies from purchasing Apple products until company unlocks terrorist’s iPhone – March 3, 2016
Apple is racking up supporters in privacy fight against U.S. government overreach – March 3, 2016
Husband of San Bernardino terrorism victim backs Apple vs. U.S. government overreach – March 3, 2016
Over 40 companies to back Apple vs. U.S. government overreach; beleaguered Samsung still thinking about it – March 3, 2016
Apple posts amicus briefs in support of Apple vs. U.S. government overreach – March 3, 2016
U.S. Defense Secretary says strong encryption essential to national security, not a believer in back doors – March 3, 2016
Apple digs in for long fight against U.S. government overreach: ‘There is no middle ground’ – March 3, 2016
ACLU, other privacy groups urge U.S. judge to support Apple vs. U.S. government in iPhone case – March 2, 2016
Apple scored the knockout punch against FBI in House Judiciary Committee hearing – March 2, 2016
Within an hour of Malaysia Flight 370 disappearing, Apple was working with officials to locate it – March 2, 2016
John McAfee reveals how the FBI can unlock an iPhone in 30 minutes – March 2, 2016
Can the FBI force a company to break into its own products? No, says U.S. Magistrate – March 2, 2016
Apple CEO Cook decried Obama’s ‘lack of leadership’ on encryption during a closed-door meeting last month – February 29, 2016
Obama administration set to expand sharing of data that N.S.A. intercepts – February 28, 2016
Apple’s fight with U.S. could speed development of devices impervious to government intrusion – February 24, 2016
Petition asks Obama administration to stop demanding Apple create iPhone backdoor – February 19, 2016
Obama administration claims FBI is not asking Apple for a ‘backdoor’ to the iPhone – February 18, 2016
Obama administration wants access to smartphones – December 15, 2015
Obama administration war against Apple just got uglier – July 31, 2015
Obama’s secret attempt to ban cellphone unlocking, while claiming to support it – November 19, 2013


  1. Nice to see an industry come together.. However, the current law (Fourth Amendment provisions) could be interpreted as necessary for the entire Fourth Amendment to be valid. In essence a means to allow proper SEARCH and seizure is lawful and required. All completely encrypted devices where the maker claims even they don’t have a way to get at the data contained within are at present ‘breaking’ the law. As such either the industry follow suit and provide such a means that the maker itself manages and responds to lawful search requests OR the industry lobby to amend the Fourth Amendment to allow situations where lawful search cannot be performed regardless of any authority or permissions no matter how high.

    1. I certainly don’t know the details of your amendments and constitution but this idea ” In essence a means to allow proper SEARCH and seizure is lawful and required.” certainly would explain the need for more resorts, like the one on Guantanamo on the Bay. I mean if the laws of that nation is geared to proper search and seizure then go ahead, some nations don’t value privacy, reminds me of a nation that once did not value Jews. They had laws for that too.

      1. Here’s the Fourth Amendment, how do you interpret it? “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

        1. I’m no legal expert but it looks like that upon probable cause the persons, houses, papers and effects can be seized and searched. Now I’m considering “effects” to mean personal belongings.

          That’s all fair enough as long as the item is searchable. The data on the iphone being encrypted is not searchable by means that I know of.

          That’s what is new. Many people have tried to compare the data in an iphone to the objects in a safe, saying that the combination of the safe can be circumvented and that the safe can be opened and the contents revealed. Not so with an iphone, in theory the combination (passcode) is the only way to access information, there is no other way to break into it, theoretically speaking of course.

          Essentially the way I read it is that at the time of writing that amendment houses, papers and “effects” can be searched because they were searchable. What we have no is an “effect”, a personal belonging that cannot be searched by any means available today.

          That’s new, and is beyond anything that amendment or anyone can do right now.

          Now if someone wants to work out a decryption approach to make an iphone “searchable” that’s fine but in the meantime that amendment just doesn’t cover it because it assumes that all “effects” can be searched. True at the time, not true today.

          At least that’s how I see it, and again I’m no legal expert.

          1. Appreciate your thoughtful response. I see your point with defining ‘effects’. The problem with claiming smartphones are not ‘effects’ at this point though is that until strong encryption was common, computers, cellphones, PDAs and other personal electronics could be legally searched and created a precedent that is hard to argue against. In the end though all the arguments flying around could be moot as while remote wipe capabilities also exist. Perhaps the first step is to deal with that first.

            1. I like to think that many folks here are making excellent points, this topic has really been excellent for bringing out the best of the MDN community.

              Now to your post, I don’t have an issue with claiming that smart phones are personal effects. It’s the encrypted data which is coded that is at issue. That requires a decoder. A CD on it’s own for example doesn’t sound like anything, but put it in a CD reader and the code can interpreted as music. Same with a DVD, the images are coded and must be decoded. The symbols we put up here are coded, only those with a comprehension of English or an understanding of the coded symbols will understand it. Something written in Chinese will be gibberish unless someone understands the coding system used.

              The way to deal with it is to understand the value of encryption for personal privacy and the value to be able to decode it. That’s for governmental bodies to decide I guess, but for me personal privacy wins out. Apple has now made someone unsearchable. It’s a new technology that can and will be used for arbitrarily good or bad purposes, just like any other technology.

              If the desired value is for the “search” then a government can simply make it illegal for a company to make such a device, make such devices illegal in that country or make it illegal for citizens to own such a device. If the desired value is for privacy, then it’s the new status quo, privacy maintained but sometimes it’s going to cost you.

              Have a good weekend.

            2. As with any other Rights that are afforded by law there is a balance to be struck. Where do we draw the line between personal privacy and the security of a society? I believe that the best compromise is a system that requires not just physical access to the device but also a keycode unique to it that is owned and maintained solely by the creator of the device to be used by the creator in assisting any valid search request.. This would solve the problem of remote access and the acquiring of huge databases of information quickly and focus law enforcement on the case in hand.

            3. Diversity, there are over 100 countries, they will deal with it differently. Some will see it as you do, others will say that personal privacy is the security of a society.

              A keycode is like the back door thing. It’s a pandora’s box. What happens if the company folds, if an unscrupulous employee gets the code, or an organization like the NSA gets it, cause you know if it exists, they will come…to plunder it.

              Not an acceptable idea. See my other post as well.

            4. You can search with a lawful warrant, but that doesn’t mean I have to decrypt it. For example, if my papers included words written in a foreign language, I don’t have to provide you with a translation. And, if my papers included documents in a secret code, I don’t have to break that code for you either. Now, if that were encrypted data in a smartphone, then all I have to do is let you play with the encrypted data, I don’t have to decrypt it.

            5. Exactly. and no one will be able to force Apple to decrypt the data or provide a key without some serious consequences. Thanks for your point.

            6. Furthermore Apple has let slip that it is working on a next-gen unbreakable iPhone, one not subject to the socalled backdoor in this case. By doing that, Apple raised the ante in this poker game. DOJ’s next move? — A bluff — that Congress would kowtow to the Ministry of Truth and pass legislation making it illegal for Apple to make something unbreakable, exceeding even the demands of the craven French Parliament who would only penalise Strong encryption.

            7. Yes, that’s one approach, to pass legislation making it illegal for Apple to make something unbreakable, or at least to sell an device capable of encryption. Of course that’s tricky too, Apple could probably find a way to make encrypted devices for the free and civilized world and other version where the device is not encrypted.

              We’ll see what happens.

          2. It’s not that Apple can’t decrypt it. Apple can certainly decrypt it. That’s not the issue. The issue is that the FBI wants Apple to give them a program which will allow them to decrypt iPhones on their own, without Apple’s help.The problem is that this could allow the FBI to search everyone’s iPhones with impunity, even if it isn’t legal anymore. And if not, a hacker might get somehow get that decryption program and he’ll be able to hack into any iPhone.

            1. Totally against any maker giving anyone outside of itself the ability to respond to properly acquired search requests. So no to widespread remote access, yes to access via possession of physical device. I propose an access scheme that allows bypassing the lock by using a physical dongle/key that needs to be plugged into the device to be searched and a keycode unique to the device needing to be input. Perhaps in Apple’s case the keycode could be similar to that used for reauthenticating the TouchID sensor that Apple already manages.

            2. Thanks for your post jfblagden.

              I don’t know if Apple can “certainly decrypt it.” but for the moment let’s say that they can. If that is the case then you are spot on with your comment, and giving such an ability to anyone like the FBI is what Apple is fighting against. When you say “search everyone’s iPhone” I hope you are aware that this means search iphones that have been purchased and used outside of the country that the FBI belongs to, and no doubt that government has and will, as Snowden has so eloquently pointed out.

              I think the big thing here is that laws to not necessarily equate to being a tool to serve the people nor do they necessarily represent a morality. This has been shown time and time again throughout history.

          3. An iPhone is an extension of your memory. Jobs once said that computers are a bicycle for your mind. Last I heard they could not search your brain. Neither is it legal to force you to incriminate yourself by revealing what is held in your brain. So how is it not hypocritical to make you reveal the memory of your phone?

    2. Nothing is preventing the government from confiscating the encrypted devices and using its technical skills to break into the device, with a valid warrant. The issue here is that the government doesn’t want to invest the resources to acquire this skill, so are attempting to go cheap and force the manufacturers to do it for them. There’s no 4th Amendment conflict here.

      1. Sounds rather irresponsible to me and getting close to obstruction of justice. I could understand if Apple assists and throws up its hands on a third party encryption system.. I’m not saying law enforcement should not exert any effort but for 1st party makers, meeting them part-way (e.g. means for weakening encryption to allow final cracking effort by law enforcement) is enough for me.

        1. Hold on, the 4th Amendment and “obstructing justice” are so far removed from one another as to make your comment laughable. All laws that may impact the 4th Amendment must pass its test, not the other way around.

          1. You have a point but might be too narrowly focused. My comment of “obstructing justice” relates to the Fifth Amendment in relation to the effect of strong encryption for all practical purposes circumventing the Fourth Amendment provision for legal Search to be performed. I understand in the UK no Fifth Amendment type protection exists for this and a person is charged with ‘contempt’ and liable for 2 years of jail time for not giving law enforcement their passcode given proper procedures were performed.

    3. I’m no expert in constitutional law at all but what I see from the FBI case is that the FBI is NOT asking to ‘search’ Apple or something belonging to Apple but to ask Apple to ASSIST in a search, i.e in opening an item owned by someone else which is quite a different thing.

      (if a terrorist uses a car is the car manufacturer liable for stuff? If the car manufacturer is asked by the authorities to help , it might , but are there NO LIMITS to what the authorities can ask of it?)

      Point is can the FBI COMPEL a third party to whatever standard he sets? Can FBI compel neighbours to help search an apartment for example ? Can the FBI even with warrant force a landlord to KICK door down for them? (there might be terrorist inside!)

      this leads to the point: can the FBI compel the person or company to do something which the company (or person) thinks it is detrimental to it (i.e like hurt it’s business) or dangerous (if the Hack OS leaks and hackers hurt a lot of people — say hackers get info off a phone which results in a kidnapping — who is to blame) ? If the person can clearly see the request is dangerous does he still have to follow the order? (the Hack OS is judged almost universally as very dangerous by cyber experts)

  2. I find it kind of interesting that a lot of the bozos in Congress that are unwilling to restrict anyone’s “liberty” in exercising their 2nd amendment right to buy assault weapons that can be used to shoot their coworkers really don’t seem to give a s**t about those of us who are more concerned about our 4th amendment rights. Until an organization like the Electronic Frontier Foundaion amasses the political clout of the NRA, protecting privacy is a non-issue for the politicians.

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