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Justice Department says Apple’s defense of encryption is just a marketing stunt

Justice Department says Apple’s defense of encryption is just a marketing stunt

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In a new motion filed today, the Justice Department is seeking to force Apple to comply with the order asking it assist the FBI in breaking into the iPhone 5C of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook. "Rather than assist the effort to fully investigate a deadly terrorist attack by obeying this court's [previous order], Apple has responded by publicly repudiating that order," US attorneys wrote. Going further, the Justice Department considers Apple's refusal "to be based on its concern for its business model and public brand marketing strategy" above all else.

Apple was originally granted five business days to respond to the order issued on February 16th, with an additional three-day extension putting the deadline at February 26th. However, the Justice Department is increasing the pressure after Apple CEO Tim Cook posted a letter on his company's website outlining the plan to resist the government. The Justice Department didn’t wait for Apple’s official legal response, claiming that by posting its letter to Apple customers, the company "made its intention not to comply patently clear."

"Apple has responded by publicly repudiating that order."

"The government does not seek to deny Apple its right to be heard, and expects these issues to be fully briefed before the Court; however, the urgency of this investigation requires this motion now that Apple has made its intention not to comply patently clear," US attorneys added. "This aspect of the investigation into the December 2nd, 2015 terrorist attack must move forward." The DOJ says Apple has "consistently complied with a significant number of orders" in the past for devices running earlier versions of iOS, and that "to facilitate a warrant is therefore not unprecedented."

While Apple is facing strong opposition from the US government, it's also seeing a mounting coalition of support from other Silicon Valley giants. After Google CEO Sundar Pichai stood behind Cook in a series of tweets on Wednesday, both Facebook and Twitter came out in support of Apple. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey linked Cook's letter in a tweet yesterday afternoon and Facebook released a statement saying it "will continue to fight aggressively against requirements for companies to weaken the security of their systems." Facebook said the government's demands "would create a chilling precedent and obstruct companies’ efforts to secure their products." Other tech companies, including Facebook-owned WhatsApp and Microsoft, have sided with Apple, although to varying degrees of solidarity.

Update at 3:40PM ET February 19th: Added additional details from the motion.