Apple-FBI Detente Won’t Stop Protesters From Going to Court
Apple and the FBI may not be in court on Tuesday, but that won’t stop the protesters.
Digital rights activist group Fight for the Future, along with supporters from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other groups, will protest outside the U.S. District courthouse in California, the organizations have confirmed. The move comes despite the Justice Department asking the court on Monday to postpone the hearing until it can determine whether a new method it has discovered to unlock the iPhone owned by San Bernardino attacker Syed Farook will actually work.
“The FBI might be running away from their own hearing, but we’re not,” Jeff Lyon, chief technology officer at Fight for the Future, said in a statement. “We’ll still be outside the courthouse to make sure those people’s voices are heard, because this fight is far from over. Encryption software protects our hospitals, airports, and water treatment facilities. The government’s continued effort to weaken encryption is not just an attack on our civil liberties–it’s a threat to our national security.”
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Fight for the Future, which made its name by staging massive online protests for Net Neutrality and online censorship, has been one of the more outspoken FBI critics in the case between Apple (AAPL) and the FBI. In addition to issuing several statements in support of Apple’s position to not help the FBI unlock Syed Farook’s iPhone, the group has staged protests at dozens of Apple retail stores around the U.S. in support of the company’s case.
In a statement last month ahead of the rallies at Apple retail stores, Evan Greer, campaign director for Fight for the Future, called the government’s attempt to use a court order to gain access to Farook’s iPhone “unconstitutional,” adding that it could “put millions of people in danger.”
The Justice Department late on Monday petitioned the court to postpone what was expected to be a bloody hearing between Apple and the FBI over the iPhone in question. In a filing, the Justice Department said that it had become aware of a new method for unlocking Farook’s iPhone, and it wanted to see whether that would work before it goes to court with Apple, which has said it will fight for privacy all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“On Sunday, March 20, 2016, an outside party demonstrated to the FBI a possible method for unlocking Farook’s iPhone,” the federal prosecutors wrote. “Testing is required to determine whether it is a viable method that will not compromise data on Farook’s iPhone. If the method is viable, it should eliminate the need for assistance from Apple.”
The judge granted the request, pending the government’s review.
Fight for the Future, along with several other rights groups, has been collecting comments from the public supporting Apple’s privacy argument through its SaveSecurity website. The group says that it has received over 20,000 comments from Internet users and plans to display them digitally in front of the courthouse on Tuesday to show how many people are against “government backdoors in encryption.” The group will also hold a press conference at 2 p.m. ET, though it didn’t say how many protesters would be on the steps of the courthouse. Ultimately, the group hopes the demonstration will send a clear message to “decision-makers” to think twice about continuing the fight with Apple.
“This case was never about a phone. It was a grab for power,” Fight for the Future’s Greer said in a statement. “The FBI already had the capability to hack this phone using forensic tools, but they thought this case would be a slam dunk—a way for them to set a dangerous precedent that they’ve wanted for years. Instead, it appears they’re running away with their tail between their legs, trying to save face while they go. They knew they were going to lose, both in the court of law and the court of public opinion.”
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The protesters are planning to be at the courthouse at noon on Tuesday.
Neither Apple nor the FBI immediately responded to a request for comment.