Apple has asked a US federal court to throw out an order demanding that the company helps an FBI investigation by unlocking an encrypted iPhone belonging to one of the gunmen in the San Bernardino shootings.
Apple has argued that decrypting the phone would violate the firm's free speech rights and bypass the will of Congress.
The FBI wants the iPhone passcode used by Syed Rizwan Farook to aid an investigation into his role in the murder of 14 people at the Inland Regional Centre in San Bernardino on 2 December.
“The government's request creates an unprecedented burden on Apple and violates Apple's First Amendment rights against compelled speech,” said Apple in a filing to the court.
“No court has ever authorised what the government now seeks, no law supports such unlimited and sweeping use of the judicial process, and the Constitution forbids it.”
But the US government has contended that judges have the right to enforce their own orders under the All Writs Act law of 1789 and thus compel Apple to obey the FBI’s request.
Apple warned that such a move is “a dangerous power that Congress and the American people have withheld” and that it violates the US Constitution.
The company is not alone in this assertion. Microsoft has thrown its corporate weight behind its rival, and is supporting Apple in its legal battle.
“Put simply, 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,” said Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith.
“We need 21st century laws that address 21st century technology issues. And we need these laws to be written by Congress."
Facebook also has Apple’s back and will support the firm in the court battle. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at MWC 2016: “We are pretty sympathetic to Tim and Apple. I don’t think requiring back doors to encryption is an effective [way] to increase security or is the right thing to do."
Apple has fought the FBI’s demands for some weeks. CEO Tim Cook said that writing a piece of software that puts a backdoor into an iPhone would be the “equivalent of cancer”.
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