Overnight Technology

Overnight Tech: Apple supporters flood the court

LEDE: Here comes the cavalry. Supporters of Apple in its encryption fight with the FBI flooded the court Thursday. 

The supporters ranged from big names in web services, like Twitter and Airbnb, and tech and telecom giants like AT&T and Intel, to powerful Washington trade groups.

“This extraordinary and unprecedented effort to compel a private company to become the government’s investigative arm not only has no legal basis under the All Writs Act or any other law, but threatens the core principles of privacy, security, and transparency that underlie the fabric of the Internet,” wrote 17 companies, including Twitter, in their brief.

{mosads}Intel, in a separate filing, said that “before the government is given the broad authority to force a company to develop technology for the purpose of circumventing security features the issues that such authority would raise should be discussed and debated through the democratic process, with consultation involving industry and other affected stakeholders.” AT&T filed its own brief in the case.

A cavalcade of outside groups also joined in. Trade groups BSA, the Consumer Technology Association, TechNet and ITI articulated their backing for Apple in their own filing. ACT, the association for companies that make apps, had its own brief. The Electronic Frontier Foundation joined with 46 technologists to file a brief, and a separate filing came Access Now and the Wickr foundation. A group of academics from top schools filed a brief, as well. So did the American Civil Liberties Union.

READ ALL THE BRIEFS IN ONE PLACE: Apple has compiled briefs in support of its position here.

THE CASE FOR A LIFELINE SPENDING CAP: Republican FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly strongly rejected the commission’s upcoming rules that will expand the Lifeline program to cover Internet subsidies. He argued that the program should have a firm budget cap, which the FCC is expected to avoid. Without a cap on the current $1.6 billion program, spending could go “through the roof” without any accountability. Many Republicans are weary of expansion after fraud and abuse when the program previously expanded to help cover basic cellphone service.

SPOTTED: FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler on the House side of the Capitol building. A spokesperson confirmed he was taking meetings but declined to say with whom.

PUSH FOR PUBLIC REPORTS: A handful of lawmakers in the House and Senate introduced legislation that would require the public release of many reports issued by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the research arm of the legislative branch. The reports are available to all staffers and thousands of them eventually find their way out into the public. But a few lawmakers, and dozens of transparency groups, want the reports to be made public when they are first issued.

INSIDE THE FCC’S PRIVACY RULEMAKING: Wireline Bureau Chief Matthew DelNero spoke Thursday at a symposium put on by the FCBA and ABA. While he didn’t tip his hand on what the commission’s forthcoming privacy rules for ISPs will look like, he said that the agency was being guided by three principles: “transparency,” “choice” and “data security.” Read his prepared remarks here.

IoT MARKUP IN APRIL?: Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) said at a Thursday Senate Commerce markup that she expected her bill on the Internet of Things — called the DIGIT Act — to be marked up by the committee in April. “We’ll try and do that,” said Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) “We made a commitment to Sen. Fisher to get that done.”


Twitter, Airbnb and LinkedIn are among 17 technology companies that filed a brief Thursday in support of Apple in its court battle with the FBI over whether it should be required to create software meant to help the agency access secured data.

Rep. David Jolly (R-Fla.) is proposing a way to punish Apple for refusing to abide by a court order directing the company to unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters: Stop buying its products for government use.

Nearly 40 groups sent a letter to Fox News urging Thursday night’s presidential debate moderators to ask the candidates how they would expand Internet access — especially in poor, rural and minority communities. 

Consumer advocates are urging regulators to take action against Comcast’s new video service, Stream TV.

A Senate panel on Thursday approved a bill aimed at freeing up more valuable airwaves, known as spectrum, that are crucial to the operation of wireless devices.


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