The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and Amnesty International have come out in support of Apple, after the company said it would contest a judge's order to unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters.
The FBI has demanded access to an iPhone 5c used by Syed Farook, on the grounds that it could provide information on who Farook and his wife were communicating with prior to killing 14 people in December. Apple has strongly opposed the demand, with CEO Tim Cook saying the company would effectively have to build a backdoor that would undermine user security and privacy. So far, rights groups are unequivocally in Cook's corner.
Statement from Alex Abdo, staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project:
"This is an unprecedented, unwise, and unlawful move by the government. The Constitution does not permit the government to force companies to hack into their customers' devices. Apple is free to offer a phone that stores information securely, and it must remain so if consumers are to retain any control over their private data.
"The government's request also risks setting a dangerous precedent. If the FBI can force Apple to hack into its customers' devices, then so too can every repressive regime in the rest of the world. Apple deserves praise for standing up for its right to offer secure devices to all of its customers."
Statement from Sherif Elsayed-Ali, Deputy Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International:
"Apple is right to fight back in this case: the FBI's request, which would in practice require Apple to rewrite its operating system to weaken security protections, would set a very dangerous precedent. Such backdoors undermine everyone's security and threaten our right to privacy. Undermining mobile security not only puts our data at risk of being stolen by criminals, but also threatens privacy and freedom of expression at a time when [it] is a clear lack of checks and balances that prevent[s] authorities from abusing surveillance powers."
Statement from the EFF:
We learned on Tuesday evening that a U.S. federal magistrate judge ordered Apple to backdoor an iPhone that was used by one of the perpetrators of the San Bernardino shootings in December. Apple is fighting the order which would compromise the security of all its users around the world.
We are supporting Apple here because the government is doing more than simply asking for Apple’s assistance. For the first time, the government is requesting Apple write brand new code that eliminates key features of iPhone security—security features that protect us all. Essentially, the government is asking Apple to create a master key so that it can open a single phone. And once that master key is created, we're certain that our government will ask for it again and again, for other phones, and turn this power against any software or device that has the audacity to offer strong security.
The U.S. government wants us to trust that it won't misuse this power. But we can all imagine the myriad ways this new authority could be abused. Even if you trust the U.S. government, once this master key is created, governments around the world will surely demand that Apple undermine the security of their citizens as well.
EFF applauds Apple for standing up for real security and the rights of its customers. We have been fighting to protect encryption, and stop backdoors, for over 20 years. That's why EFF plans to file an amicus brief in support of Apple's position.
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has also been voicing his support for Apple on Twitter: