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Cybersecurity & Standards, Government Surveillance

CDT Files Brief in Support of Apple

The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) has filed an amicus brief in support of Apple in its challenge to the FBI order to unlock the cell phone of an attacker in the San Bernardino shootings. CDT’s brief addresses the inappropriate application of the All Writs Act in an attempt by the government to compel Apple to create a new, less secure operating system for the phone. CDT has long opposed government-mandated backdoors in technology, and believes that strong encryption strengthens the security of our nation.

“As deeply saddened as we all are by the tragic loss of lives in San Bernardino, our response as a nation simply cannot be to weaken the security of all of our citizens. This is about more than just one case or one phone. Rather, it is about the government attempting to mandate technological backdoors that would make our personal records and communications less secure,” said Lisa Hayes, CDT Vice President of Programs & Strategy.

CDT’s brief makes two main arguments:

  1. That ordering a private company to defeat its own security measures by creating a new version of its software is an impermissible expansion of the All Writs Act; and
  2. That compelling private companies to weaken the security of their products will undermine device security and decrease public trust in connected devices and emerging technologies.

“In our increasingly connected world, strong security in all of the technology that touches our daily lives is essential. Weakening the security of devices such as cell phones will greatly reduce trust in these devices, harm adoption of new technologies, and make all of us more vulnerable to cyber attacks. The All Writs Act was initially enacted by the first Congress in 1789. There is simply no conceivable way that the drafters could have intended that it be used as a tool to expand government surveillance,” Hayes added.

Oral argument in the case has been set for March 22. CDT will continue to follow the case as it evolves, and will aggressively challenge any ruling that would allow the government to compel companies to weaken the security of their products.