Apple’s battle with the FBI is going straight to Congress

Apple’s battle with the FBI is going straight to Congress
Credit: Anton Ivanov / Shutterstock

It’s pretty much exactly what Apple asked for in its ongoing encryption dispute with the FBI – the company’s legal representative Bruce Sewell will appear in Congress on Tuesday to argue its case in front of the House’s legal committee.

The director of the FBI James Comey Jr. will appear in an initial hearing, followed later by Sewell, Senior VP and General Counsel at Apple.

Sounding rather more like a movie than an official meeting, the event has been called: ‘The Encryption Tightrope: Balancing Americans’ Security and Privacy.’

Sewell will be joined by Susan Landau, who’s a professor of Cybersecurity Policy at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and an award-winning writer of books including ‘Surveillance or Security? The Risks Posed by New Wiretapping Technologies.’

But the panel will also include Cyrus Vance Jr., New York District Attorney and known critic of encryption and Apple’s security efforts in particular. A report from his office late last year said:

In September 2014, Apple Inc. announced that its new operating system for smartphones and tablets would employ, by default, what is commonly referred to as “full-disk encryption,” making data on its devices completely inaccessible without a passcode. Shortly thereafter, Google Inc. announced that it would do the same.

Apple’s and Google’s decisions to enable full-disk encryption by default on smartphones means that law enforcement officials can no longer access evidence of crimes stored on smartphones, even though the officials have a search warrant issued by a neutral judge. 

Apple and Google are not responsible for keeping the public safe. That is the job of law enforcement. But the consequences of these companies’ actions on the public safety are severe.

It is not clear yet what this will mean for the ongoing court case in California, which Apple is supposed to submit its response to by Friday.

Update: Apple responded by filing a motion to vacate the original order.

➤ The Encryption Tightrope: Balancing Americans’ Security and Privacy [House of Representatives]

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