A bevy of Silicon Valley heavyweights have shown open support for Apple in its legal battle with the F.B.I. over a killer’s iPhone. On Thursday, both Intel and AT&T filed pro-Apple briefs. Twitter, LinkedIn, Airbnb, and eBay filed an amicus brief on behalf of the tech giant. And Mozilla, Snapchat, Google, and Facebook are expected to file a brief by the end of the day Thursday, USA Today reports.
The legal battle in question is the San Bernardino case. Last month, a federal judge issued a court order that would require Apple to allow the F.B.I. to access encrypted data on an iPhone 5C used by one of the shooters in last year’s San Bernardino terrorist attack. Apple C.E.O. Tim Cook wrote an open letter in response, explaining that Apple wouldn’t cooperate because doing so would set a troubling legal precedent.
Many of these Silicon Valley companies’ defenses of the tech giant echo Apple’s own argument against the F.B.I. Twitter’s amicus brief, filed alongside a number of other companies, says that if Apple were to comply with the federal government and its “extraordinary and unprecedented effort to compel a private company to become the government’s investigative arm,” it would create a “dangerous” precedent. Mozilla’s chief legal officer Denelle Dixon-Thayer described the government’s request of Apple as “overreach.”
Tech bosses like Facebook C.E.O. Mark Zuckerberg and Google C.E.O. Sundar Pichai waded into the debate in favor of the tech company, which has a $564 billion market capitalization, last month. Some family members of victims and survivors of the San Bernardino shooting have also publicly supported Apple, too. Other individuals, like Microsoft co-founder and mega-philanthropist Bill Gates, have spoken out in favor of the F.B.I. and national security.
It seems as though tech companies big and small have hopped aboard the pro-Apple bandwagon in a legal battle that raises questions of privacy, surveillance, and national security. But it’s easy to be skeptical of the same industry that in recent years complied with and provided “full assistance” to the N.S.A. in accordance with its data-collection program Prism, which raised a number of similar questions. Yahoo, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and AOL claimed not to know about the surveillance program, which collects Internet communications from major tech companies.
Regardless, siding with Apple, perhaps the most prominent tech company in the world, is an opportunity for these companies to take a stance, since silence or ambivalence can be seen as standing with the government. Siding with Apple isn’t necessarily a good P.R. move for these companies—a recent Pew survey shows that 51 percent of Americans want Apple to comply with the federal court order—reinforcing the idea that this isn’t just Silicon Valley groupthink. These companies really are concerned, it seems, about a precedent that could undermine their customers’ privacy, and they’re going to fight to protect it.
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