In the week since Apple went head to head with the FBI over encryption and hacking, people from across the tech sector have offered a wide spectrum of support for the iPhone maker.
WhatsApp’s founder Jan Koum fully supports Apple, while Google CEO Sundar Pichai is troubled by the potential for a harmful precedent. Bill Gates has also spoken out on the issue, expressing some skepticism about Apple’s arguments that complying with the request would create a widespread “backdoor” beyond the specific iPhone in question.
Today, Microsoft announced that they will take a huge step in supporting Apple’s position.
At testimony about the problems tech companies face when dealing with conflicting international laws, Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith announced that his company would be filing an amicus brief supporting Apple’s position in the case, stating that the outdated laws the FBI is citing are older than the adding machine he brought with him.
“We at Microsoft support Apple and will be filing an amicus brief next week,” Smith said.
An amicus, or “friend of the court,” brief lets companies and outside entities add comments to court cases that aren’t involved in. Apple filed an amicus brief last year in Microsoft’s ongoing fight against the outdated laws Smith was arguing against today.
“We do not believe that courts should seek to resolve issues of 21st century technology with law that was written in the era of the adding machine,” Smith said. “We need 21st century laws that address 21st century technology issues, and we need these laws to be written by Congress. We therefore agree wholeheartedly with Apple that the right place to bring this discussion is here to the House of Representatives and the Senate so the people who are elected by the people can make these decisions.”
Smith was obviously prepared for questions about Apple’s legal battle. That, or he just carries around an adding machine to Congressional hearings. Microsoft had obliquely offered support for Apple’s side through the Reform Government Surveillance group that it co-founded, but hadn’t made any direct show of support until today.
The adding machine wasn’t the only antique tech Smith pulled out in his testimony today. He also used IBM’s first laptop to illustrate the age of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which Microsoft is urging Congress to update as it faces a legal battle over conflicting international laws. And Apple is backing Microsoft in that case with an amicus brief of its own.