Apple Cites First Amendment in San Bernardino Court Case

February 29, 2016 - 3 minutes read

Tim Cook iPhone case FBI

Apple is far from throwing in the towel in their high-profile court case with the FBI this month. While law enforcement continues to portray the tech giant’s stance on creating a “back door” into their products as a roadblock to justice, iPhone app developers worldwide — and much of the American public — believe the action would set a dangerous precedent for government access to citizen’s private data. Is Apple’s stance truly detrimental to the case? Would the information found on the San Bernardino killers’ iPhone save lives, or merely add another chapter to the tragedy?

At the heart of the case is the FBI’s court order compelling the company to create a new iOS that lacks the security measures Apple users and San Francisco iPhone app developers have come to count on over the past decade. In a motion to vacate the court order last Thursday, Apple said that “The unprecedented order requested by the government finds no support in the law and would violate the Constitution. Such an order would inflict significant harm—to civil liberties, society, and national security—and would preempt decisions that should be left to the will of the people through laws passed by Congress and signed by the President.”

In the follow-up to the court date, Apple has stirred the public conversation further by suggesting that the court order is in direct violation of their first amendment rights to free speech. While this argument hinges on a rhetorically controversial classification of code as speech, the public seems to be largely siding with the company on the case.

Statements on the case by Apple CEO Tim Cook likened the theoretical “security-free” operating system as a “master key” that could be used again and again in future cases. While FBI statements assure that the “key” would only be used in this case, iPhone app developers and technologists know better than to trust the government to keep such a tool locked up — both safe from third-party hackers and unused by the FBI itself. Additionally, public opinion of the US government’s tech policies has suffered in recent years thanks to whistleblowers who revealed NSA hacking and surveillance practices. In the meantime, iPhone and iPad developers are watching closely alongside the entire tech community as the case — which will likely come to define the relationship between government interests and Silicon Valley in 2016 — approaches its conclusion.

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