Date
26 July 2017
Apple is fighting a request by the FBI that it create software to unlock the iPhone of Rizwan Farook, one of the shooters in the San Bernardino killings in December. Photo: internet
Apple is fighting a request by the FBI that it create software to unlock the iPhone of Rizwan Farook, one of the shooters in the San Bernardino killings in December. Photo: internet

Privacy groups urge US judge to back Apple in tussle with FBI

Digital privacy advocates have called on a US federal judge to approve Apple Inc.’s request not to be compelled to build software to help the FBI unlock an iPhone used by one of the shooters in the San Bernardino attack in December.

The American Civil Liberties Union, Access Now and the Wickr Foundation laid out arguments in amicus briefs released Wednesday before a hearing March 22 at which Judge Sheri Pym will review the consumer electronics giant’s appeal of a court order demanding that it help unlock a phone used by Rizwan Farook.

Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Facebook Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Twitter Inc. also plan to file similar briefs, Reuters reports. 

The ACLU argues that the FBI’s request would undermine the privacy and security of Americans by forcing a private firm to act as its investigative agent, seeking information that it does not already possess.

“Law enforcement may not commandeer innocent third parties into becoming its undercover agents, its spies, or its hackers,” a draft of the brief obtained by Reuters said.

Access Now and the Wickr Foundation, which both advise activists on digital privacy, said in a joint brief that complying with the order would undermine human rights around the globe.

“In some countries, reliable security tools such as encryption can be the difference between life and death,” their brief says.

“The relief sought by the government endangers people globally who depend on robust digital security for their physical safety and wellbeing.”

The US government has said the Dec. 2 attack in San Bernardino, California, was inspired by Islamist militants, and the FBI wants to read the data on Farook’s phone to investigate any links with militant groups.

Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, shot and killed 14 people and wounded 22 others before they themselves were killed in a shootout with police.

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