04 Mar Apple Is Rolling Up Backers in iPhone Privacy Fight Against F.B.I.
Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and a parade of other technology companies filed a barrage of court briefs on Thursday, aiming to puncture the United States government’s legal arguments against Apple in a case that will test the limits of the authorities’ access to personal data.
The extraordinary show of support for Apple from the tech companies, including many rivals, underscores how high the stakes are for the industry with the case, in which the authorities are demanding Apple’s help to break into an iPhone used by a gunman in a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif., last year.
In all, around 40 companies and organizations, along with several dozen individuals, submitted more than a dozen briefs this week to the Federal District Court for the District of Central California, challenging every legal facet of the government’s case, like its free speech implications, the importance of encryption and concerns about government overreach.
“These companies, which are often fierce competitors, have joined together to voice concern about the attempted government overreach in this case, which threatens the integrity and security of their products and privacy rights of consumers in general,” said Neal Katyal, a lawyer at Hogan Lovells for the tech companies and a former acting solicitor general of the United States.
Edward J. McAndrew, a lawyer at Ballard Spahr who is not involved in the Apple matter, said it was highly unusual to see a flood of briefs by so many parties this early in a case. He called the outpouring “Supreme Court-level advocacy” and said the campaign was intended to have influence beyond the court with legislators and others.
“This is a show of force,” said Mr. McAndrew, a former federal prosecutor who focused on online crimes. “This is a battle for public opinion.”
Bruce Sewell, Apple’s general counsel, said on Wednesday that the company was “humbled by the outpouring of support.”
The case between Apple and the government became public last month, when a federal magistrate judge in California ordered the company to bypass the security functions on the iPhone. Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, opposed the order, arguing the case could have far-reaching implications for other devices and software, with governments everywhere able to demand more access to tech companies’ data.