After initially offering support through press releases and a smattering of tweets, some of the nation’s largest tech companies are now supporting Apple more directly in their fight against the FBI over encryption and hacking.
Yesterday, Microsoft announced that it will be filing an amicus brief to support Apple. Now, it appears that Facebook and Google parent company Alphabet are working with Microsoft on the brief as well, to be filed as a joint submission. Amazon told Buzzfeed that it is also “working on amicus brief options.” Twitter is working on its own supporting brief as well.
An amicus, or “friend of the court,” brief lets companies and outside entities add comments to court cases that aren’t involved in.
The move to file amicus briefs is a big step for companies to take in supporting a competitor. Especially in this case, where Apple is seen by some as simply denying access to a terrorist’s phone, supporting Apple may be seen by the public as undermining law enforcement.
“This is why I’m just a tiny bit worried about Tim Cook drawing such a stark line in the sand with this case: the PR optics could not possibly be worse for Apple,” Ben Thompson wrote at Stratechery. “It’s a case of domestic terrorism with a clear cut bad guy and a warrant that no one could object to, and Apple is capable of fulfilling the request.”
But with some of the biggest U.S. tech firms backing Apple, the PR optics may be changing. Sure, presidential candidate Donald Trump can start an Apple boycott, but it’s doubtful he’ll boycott Twitter or switch to Linux. People’s views may change when they see how many American companies are worried about the implications of an FBI win.
Companies have until March 3 to file an amicus brief in Apple’s case. Yesterday, Apple filed a motion to dismiss the court order that would force it to unlock the iPhone in this case citing its free speech rights.