Privacy group to protest Apple-FBI court hearing

Getty Images

A prominent digital rights group will protest the March 22 court hearing in the fight between Apple and the FBI over a locked iPhone.

The group, Fight for the Future, will read and display comments from those backing Apple. The tech giant is rebuffing a court order directing it to help investigators unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters.

Apple — backed by digital rights advocates — argues complying would undermine its own security and set a dangerous precedent for other locked devices.

“This case is not just about one phone, it’s about the future of safety and security for millions of people all over the world,” said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future (FFTF), in a Wednesday statement. “We’ll be outside the courthouse to make sure those people’s voices are heard, because what the government is trying to do in this case doesn’t just threaten our basic rights, it puts all of us in danger.”

The FBI maintains its request is narrowly tailored to one phone and one case. The Justice Department last week blasted Apple’s privacy concerns as “false” and “corrosive,” accusing the company of using the case as a marketing ploy.  

In preparation for its protests at the first hearing in the case, FFTF has launched a website,, where people can sign a petition and leave comments to be read and presented at the demonstration.

The Apple-FBI case has become a proxy for the larger battle over law enforcement access to secured data.

Law enforcement officials warn that encryption is increasingly helping criminals and terrorists hide from authorities, or “go dark.” They have pushed tech firms to provide some type of guaranteed access to these locked communications.

But the tech community is resisting, arguing that ensuring access weakens global security and threatens online privacy.    

“Encryption protects our hospitals, airports, and water treatment facilities,” Greer said. “Undermining security risks lives.”

Pressure has mounted on Congress to step in and end the standoff.

While some lawmakers support legislation that would force companies to comply with court orders seeking encrypted data, others believe Congress should not regulate encryption standards.

In recent weeks, momentum has grown for a recently introduced compromise measure to establish a national commission to study the challenges. The panel would include voices from the privacy, technology, law enforcement and intelligence communities, and produce recommendations for Congress.