Although Apple has recently scored a victory in an almost similar case, its battle with the FBI in the San Bernardino case is yet to come to a head in a formal hearing a few weeks from now. Like a giant army slowly building up from different corners, tech companies have now formally rallied behind Apple’s cause, filing amicus brief on the company’s behalf. Among those who put their name on paper are some of the who’s who in the industry, including Google, Amazon, Facebook, Airbnb, Reddit, and, yes, Microsoft as well.
An amicus brief allows parties not directly involved in a case to formally air their view in court. Considering how the issue in the San Bernardino case would drastically affect the businesses of tech companies in the US, it isn’t surprising to see many, though not all, voice their support for Apple’s stance on the matter.
In a nutshell, the FBI is citing the All Writs Act to force Apple to create a version of iOS that practically has a backdoor, though the government refuses to name it as such, which they can then use to brute force their way into the San Bernardino’s encrypted iPhone. While perhaps justifiable in this one single case, except for the fact that the FBI botched the job by reseting the iPhone’s passcode immediately, Apple argues that it sets a chilling precedent that would undermine the security of devices and services, in the future. Already, authorities are lining up to also use the same justification to have other iPhones unlocked for the sake of investigation.
The likes of Google and Facebook have been some of the earliest supporters of Apple’s cause. Microsoft, on the other hand, has been seen as somewhat flip-flopping. Bill Gates was (mis)quoted to be supporting the FBI’s position, something the former Microsoft chair would clarify. Microsoft’s current President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith did voice out his support for Apple and now the company has put it into writing.
Just last month, a New York judge ruled that Apple can’t be forced to decrypt an encrypted iPhone under the All Writs Act. However, that was for a different case involving the DEA and a very much still alive drug trafficker. The hearing for the San Bernardino case is scheduled for March 22, curiously a day after Apple is expected to unveil the iPhone SE and a 9.7-inch iPad Pro.