Tech giants Microsoft, Facebook, and Google parent company Alphabet will file a joint brief to support Apple in its battle with the FBI.

Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading

February 26, 2016

4 Min Read
<p align="left">(Image: Dave Newman/iStockphoto)</p>

iPhone Encryption: 5 Ways It's Changed Over Time

iPhone Encryption: 5 Ways It's Changed Over Time

iPhone Encryption: 5 Ways It's Changed Over Time (Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Microsoft "wholeheartedly supports Apple" in its court case against the FBI, stated company president and chief legal officer Brad Smith.

Redmond has left no room for interpretation in its stance, which it shared in a congressional hearing on Feb. 25. The hearing addressed the need for new legislation to govern privacy, security, and the role of law enforcement amid the rise of online cloud services, Bloomberg reported.

Microsoft plans to file an amicus brief in support of Apple next week, said Smith. Amicus briefs are legal documents filed by non-litigants with strong interest in an appellate court case, for which they wish to provide additional information or arguments.

Apple is facing off against the FBI, which has ordered the tech giant to create access to an iPhone 5c used by a suspected terrorist in the Dec. 14 San Bernardino attacks. The demand would require Apple to weaken its own security measures with a new version of iOS so the FBI can guess the passcode without erasing the iPhone's data.

CEO Tim Cook has openly rejected the demand. In doing so, he has kicked off a nationwide debate over the importance of national security versus the protection of individual privacy.

Microsoft isn't the only tech company siding with Cook. Citing sources familiar with the companies' plans, the Wall Street Journal reported Facebook and Alphabet, parent company of Google, will unite with Redmond in filing the joint statement to support Apple.

The WSJ report also mentioned that Twitter intends to file a statement in support of Cook's argument; however, it is unclear whether it will join the other companies in filing a combined motion.

The FBI is building its case against Apple using the All Writs Act, a statute that allows courts to issue orders mandating people to do things within legal limitations.

Smith arrived at the Feb. 25 hearing prepared for this argument. He reportedly pulled out a 1912 adding machine while giving a statement to emphasize the age of the law being used against Apple.

"We do not believe that courts should seek to resolve issues of 21st century technology with a law that was written in the era of the adding machine," said Smith, according to the Seattle Times.

Given the latest development, it seems many tech leaders agree. However, some are less firm on their opinions.

[Apple: FBI demands to crack iPhone are unconstitutional.]

Microsoft cofounder and CEO Bill Gates was comparatively tepid in his stance, which he shared during interviews this week.

Gates claimed Apple is refusing to provide information it already has. Further, he said the FBI is not asking Apple to create a "backdoor" into its products; rather, it's requesting access to a specific set of information.

When confronted with headlines shouting his support for the FBI, Gates said such reports don't state his views on the matter. "The courts are going to decide," he said, noting now is the time for a discussion on the balance of government knowledge and personal privacy.

While this is one specific case, as Gates said, a win for the FBI could set a troubling precedent. A recent Apple legal filing reveals law enforcement has attempted to force Cupertino to unlock at least 12 iPhones in nine other cases.

Microsoft's Smith also acknowledged the potential for the Apple vs. FBI case to set a precedent, noting how "every case has implications for others."

As the debate unfolds, Apple is working to strengthen the security of the iPhone and make it even tougher to hack.

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About the Author(s)

Kelly Sheridan

Staff Editor, Dark Reading

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial services. Sheridan earned her BA in English at Villanova University. You can follow her on Twitter @kellymsheridan.

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