The American Civil Liberties Union just entered the battle between Apple CEO Tim Cook and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Not surprisingly, they came in on Apple’s side.
The ACLU sent a brief to the federal court looking into Apple’s case against the FBI, basically saying the FBI cannot force Apple to do its job. Here’s the crux of the commentary:
“Law enforcement may not commandeer innocent third parties into becoming its undercover agents, its spies, or its hackers … If the government prevails, then this case will be the first of many requiring companies to degrade the security and to undermine the trust in their products … For the many users who rely on digital devices to secure their information … this burden would be severe.”
That’s a strong statement of support in Apple’s favor, a message that should boost the PR narrative that Apple is defending user freedom while the FBI is unwittingly putting all online security in peril if they continue in this course to force Apple to build a backdoor into its software.
Going all-in with their support, the ACLU told CNN that this is a safety and security issue, not for the protection of Americans against foreign terror, but for the protection of consumers against an intrusive government that would trade their security for opening a Pandora’s box which may deliver absolutely no evidence at all.
This is an even stronger PR narrative: the idea that the FBI is going on a fishing expedition which may reveal nothing while bringing about the devolution of any hopes for real privacy and security in a digital world.
When put that way, the vast majority of consumers are unwilling to take that bet. While some may still be willing to wager the slim possibility of losing some security to the sure ability to capture more terrorists, the facts simply don’t support that narrative. The suspects in the San Bernardino attacks are dead. There’s no evidence they were working with anyone other than a neighbor who is already under investigation. So, there’s a real chance breaking into the phone will return nothing.
But it MIGHT return something huge … and that’s the message the FBI needs to push home if they have any chance of beating back the united PR force of Apple and the ACLU.