Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Amazon and Facebook voiced their decision to support the Californian tech giant in in its increasingly contentious fight with FBI, sources familiar with the matter revealed to reporters.
Microsoft’s chief legal counsel informed Congress earlier in the day that his company will file an amicus brief to support the iPhone maker in court “next week.”
“We at Microsoft support Apple, and we’ll be filing an amicus brief to support Apple’s position in court next week,” Brad Smith, president and chief legal counsel at Microsoft, said in an appearance before Congress on Thursday.
“We… agree wholeheartedly with Apple that the right place to bring this discussion is here, in the House of Representatives and the Senate, so the people who are elected by the people can make these decisions.”
The flurry of legal activity by the companies came as the F.B.I. also escalated the matter, calling on Congress to settle the question of when law enforcement should get access to citizens’ private data.
“The larger question isn’t going to be answered in the courts, and shouldn’t be,” James B. Comey Jr., the F.B.I. director, said in a hearing of the House Intelligence Committee earlier on Thursday. “It’s really about who do we want to be as a country and how do we want to govern ourselves.”
The case may eventually end up before the Supreme Court. Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, has said, “We would be prepared to take this issue all the way.”
In Apple’s response to the court on Thursday the Cupertino based firm claimed the court should drop its order because as it violates an existing law known as the All Writs Act, as well as Apple’s First Amendment and Fifth Amendment rights.
“Apple strongly supports, and will continue to support, the efforts of law enforcement in pursuing justice against terrorists and other criminals — just as it has in this case and many others,” the company said in its filing, known as a motion to vacate. “But the unprecedented order requested by the government finds no support in the law and would violate the Constitution.”
Apple added that the order had broad implications that would “inflict significant harm — to civil liberties, society and national security — and would pre-empt decisions that should be left to the will of the people through laws passed by Congress and signed by the president.”
The company also stated that if the government forced it to create new code to unlock the iPhone of the San Bernardino gunman, that would amount to “compelled speech and viewpoint discrimination,” both of which are violations of the First Amendment right to free speech.
Legal experts said it was unlikely that a judge would rely on constitutional arguments to make a decision in this early stage. “But given the likelihood that this will move to an appeals court and even further, Apple needs to include all of its arguments in the lower court if it wants to raise them again in a higher court,” said Larry Downes, project director at the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy.