Apple's decision to challenge an FBI order to help the agency access a phone used by Syed Farook, one of the shooters in the San Bernardino, Calif. attack, has drawn both broad support and sharp criticism.
Within hours of the news about Apple's decision breaking, the grassroots activism group Fight for the Future announced it would organize solidarity demonstrations at Apple stores across the country. One held in San Francisco Tuesday night drew dozens of attendees, said the group's campaign director Evan Greer. The group is planning more protests next Tuesday, including one in front of the FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Many people have looked at the debate over whether Apple should help the federal government access the iPhone as a debate between privacy and security.
Greer rejects that argument, saying that forcing Apple to comply with this order weakens both our national security and our privacy.
"Encryption protects airports, hospitals, power plants -- letting the government force companies to weaken products would have a huge impact on society, particularly the most marginalized," Greer said.
"For myself as a member of the LGBT community, I know there are a lot of people that have heightened needs for security. A breach is not just inconvenient or embarrassing, but can put people in threat of physical violence," she said.
Another defender of Apple's position? Rep. Darrell Issa (R.-Calif.) who joined the chief executives of Google, Twitter and WhatsApp in agreeing with Apple's argument that complying with the FBI's wishes sets a dangerous precedent.
"No company should be forced to intentionally weaken their own products at the bidding of a government agent. Apple has cooperated with requests from law enforcement using the information that they have access to. Going any further would do real harm to Americans’ right to privacy and would almost certainly undermine the freedoms that our government should be working to protect," he said.
The FBI has its defenders as well, however, with some arguing that Apple is standing in the way of justice rather than defending civil liberties. Henry Nickel, a San Bernardino city councilman, said that he is "extremely disappointed" in Apple's position.
"I do not feel that digital data is in any way subject to additional protection from search or seizure than any other aspect of our lives," Nickel said in an email. "If Apple fails to comply with a warrant it is in violation of the law in the same way a landlord is in violation for failing to unlock a suspect's apartment door or a bank to release information related to an individual's financial data. Apple is simply wrong if it believes digital information is somehow more sacred than any other type of information."
He went on to say he thinks Apple's position will be found "baseless and a violation of law, effectively and obstruction of justice."
San Bernardino Mayor R. Carey Davis was a little more moderate in his reply, but also said in a statement that he hopes Apple will cooperate with the authorities.
"The attack on December 2nd was the deadliest terrorist attack in the US since 9/11, and law enforcement officials continue to follow up on leads related to the case," he said. "Officials do not know whether any information related to the investigation exists on the phone, but the judge’s decision is appropriate given the nature of the attack, and the potential to uncover clues related to this terrorist attack and/or future attacks. It is my hope that Apple cooperates given the circumstances of this investigation."