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March 4, 2016updated 05 Sep 2016 7:41am

Donald Trump, the UN and tech giants: Apple’s allies and critics in the FBI encryption battle

List: Who is supporting Apple's stand against the FBI, and who isn't?

By Alexander Sword

The battle between smartphone maker Apple and the FBI continues. The FBI has ordered Apple to unlock the encryption on an Apple iPhone used by the perpetrator of a mass shooting in San Bernardino, Syed Rizwan Farook.

In mid-February, US Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym ruled that Apple had to provide the FBI with software to make it easier to hack into the phone.

The justification for this is a law called the All Writs Act, a 1789 law which allows US federal courts to "issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law."

Apple challenged the ruling, with CEO Tim Cook publishing a letter to its customers explaining why. He said that the US government had "overreached" in its demands and argued that its efforts would create a dangerous precedent.

This week, Apple has received several boosts in its battle with the security agency. A New York judge ruled that Apple cannot be forced to provide US authorities with access to a locked iPhone, which could have major implications for a well-publicised battle between the two parties.

Apple has also seen shows of support from competitors in the technology industry as well as other bodies. But just who is on Apple’s side and who isn’t, and what are they saying?


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1. The United Nations (UN)

David Kaye is the UN Special Rapporteur on the protection and promotion of opinion and expression. Appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, he monitors freedom of expression issues.

In the letter he cites a report by Kaye in May 2015 which claimed that encrypted messaging and online anonymity are essential to protecting freedom of expression.

He argued that that encryption emerged as a necessary response to governments’ abilities to spy on their citizens after "contemporary digital technologies" gave them "unprecedented capacity to interfere with the rights to freedom of opinion and expression."

The paper cited article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as protecting individuals against interference with their privacy.

Most pertinent to the Apple case was Kaye’s explicit statement that times of terrorism did not relieve governments from their obligation to respect human rights, including the right to privacy.



2. Box, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and other tech giants

In one amicus brief, a submission to the court by a third party that is not part of the case and has not been enlisted by the party, Apple’s tech compatriots including Box, Google, Facebook and Microsoft argued that the government’s order to Apple "will harm Americans’ security in the long run.

The companies admitted that they regularly competed with Apple and each other, but said that they spoke "with one voice because of the singular importance of this case to them".

While they were keen to condemn the terrorist attack, the tech giants emphasised the importance of the trust based in them by their customers.


3. Donald Trump

The former television personality, property tycoon and current frontrunner for the Republican nomination in the United States presidential race was vocal in denouncing Apple for not cooperating with the FBI.

Trump called for consumers to boycott Apple products until they gave up an unspecified "security number" that he believed they were withholding.

He provided further clarification on Twitter: "I use both iPhone & Samsung. If Apple doesn’t give info to authorities on the terrorists I’ll only be using Samsung until they give info."

Trump’s grasp of the case appeared to be relatively limited, as Apple have not refused to provide information to the security agency.

He has also mooted plans to force Apple to build their iPhones in the US.


4. Families of San Bernandino victims

Five families of the San Bernardino victims, however, filed an amicus brief with the court asking that Apple unlock the phone.

Re/code saw the filing, with the families arguing that the device might contain information on whether another attack might be on the way and shed light on the case.

The families argued that the debate about national security should be saved for a separate occasion, after this specific case had been solved.


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