Both Facebook and Twitter joined the growing number of tech companies defending Apple's decision to fight a court order to help the FBI break into the iPhone 5c used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook. 24 hours earlier, it was Google backing up Apple over the government’s overreach — albeit with less decisive language — while WhatsApp co-founder and CEO Jan Koum voiced his support for Apple CEO Tim Cook on Facebook yesterday.
"We will continue to fight aggressively against requirements for companies to weaken the security of their systems," Facebook said. The company's entire statement follows below:
We condemn terrorism and have total solidarity with victims of terror. Those who seek to praise, promote, or plan terrorist acts have no place on our services. We also appreciate the difficult and essential work of law enforcement to keep people safe. When we receive lawful requests from these authorities we comply. However, we will continue to fight aggressively against requirements for companies to weaken the security of their systems. These demands would create a chilling precedent and obstruct companies’ efforts to secure their products.
Meanwhile, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted this afternoon, saying, "We stand with @tim_cook and Apple (and thank him for his leadership)!" before linking to Cook's defiant statement posted on Apple's website yesterday. Microsoft expressed tepid support earlier today by sharing a letter from Reform Government Surveillance (RGS), of which Microsoft is a founding member, that said "technology companies should not be required to build in backdoors to the technologies that keep their users' information secure."
"Those demands would create a chilling precedent ..."
Apple's decision to fight the order demanding it effectively hack its own system for the FBI is drawing a stark line through the ranks in Washington and Silicon Valley. On one side is a group — comprised mostly of technology executives — who see the request as a fundamental violation of consumer privacy. The other end, which includes lawmakers and the likes of Donald Trump, consider Apple's staunch refusal as a serious roadblock in the fight against domestic terrorism. The case, which Apple may fight all the way up to the Supreme Court, is the most significant battle yet in the ongoing encryption debate.
While the tech industry appears to be joining hands unilaterally in its defense of Apple, lawmakers are more of a mixed bag. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said today his office has 175 iPhones involved in criminal cases that cannot be broken into due to the device's strong encryption. With support from NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, Vance said Apple and Google are "acting like teenagers saying ‘nobody can tell me what to do,’" and added that the situation "has become, ladies and gentlemen, the wild west of technology. And Apple and Google are their own sheriffs."
"Apple and Google are their own sheriffs."
Members of the Democratic House Judiciary Committee — Reps. John Conyers, Jerrold Nadler, Zoe Lofgren, and Sheila Jackson Lee — contested the order on the grounds it was being used to undermine the legislative process around demanding encryption backdoors.
"There is little reason for the government to make this demand on Apple — except to enact a policy proposal that has gained no traction in Congress and was rejected by the White House," the lawmakers said in a statement. "Properly understood, strong encryption is our best defense against online criminals — including terrorist organizations. It is the backbone of the Internet economy and vital for the protection of both free expression and privacy."
Update at 7:07PM ET February 18th: Added Facebook's statement in full and additional details.