EFF in the News
In a series of court battles in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Cindy Cohn represented plaintiffs challenging restrictions on DVD copying and the publication of cryptographic code. In all three cases—Bernstein v. United States, Universal City Studios v. Reimerdes, and Junger v. Daley—federal courts held that computer code merited protection under the First Amendment.
...Cohn, now the executive director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, endorsed Apple's repeated citations of her cases. But she said that the controversial iPhone-unlocking order impinged even further on Apple's free-speech rights than the restrictions in her cases.
Code is written primarily to communicate to machines. Andrew Crocker, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, compares source code to other technical forms of communication like sheet music or mathematical equations.
"Programmers write code to have computers do things, but other people can read that code, because it has comments in it," said Crocker, whose foundation filed court papers to support Apple. "Just because you and I don't understand it doesn't mean there aren't some people who do. Programmers will tell you there is a right way to write code: There's cool code and elegant code. It's a form of communication separate from or alongside form the instructions for the computer."
"Magistrate judges are uniquely positioned to see this increasing use of technology by law enforcement," said Andrew Crocker, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit privacy organization. "They're on the front lines, and they're asking questions."
Michael Hayden, principal at the Chertoff Group, a security consultancy. Retired Air Force general and former director of the National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency. Author of the new book, “Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror.” (@GenMhayden)
Amazon, LinkedIn, Twitter, the Mozilla Foundation, and the cloud storage firm Box, along with advocacy groups including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology, are also expected to support Apple.
As Apple faces its big battle with the FBI, Electronic Frontier Foundation executive director Cindy Cohn warns consumers that they should be aware that any information they give to companies could someday be sought by the government.
Cohn said she is glad that companies are coming together to support Apple.
"It ultimately may raise some hard questions for them about how much information they need to collect, and how they secure it, and how long they keep it," she added.
But Stephen Vladeck, an expert on national security law at American University, told Quartz that it’s Apple as a corporation, and not Cook himself, that is potentially liable to a contempt charge. Lee Tien, a privacy lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, agrees that Cook himself doesn’t appear to be at risk, but that, in the event that Apple were charged with contempt, it could be subject to stiff fines. Tien notes that Yahoo has said that, in 2014, the US government threatened the company with $250,000-a-day fines in a surveillance case.
And if the government wants to read encrypted text message sent through an app such as Telegram — reported to be popular with ISIL — the FBI’s silence suggests there’s nothing to look at, said Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “I’m guessing if the phone did have Telegram installed, they would be shouting that from the rooftops,” he said.
"Almost everything in TPP is kind of ripe for a challenge under ISDS," said Maira Sutton, a global policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, in reference to approximately 9,000 multinational corporations that would be empowered to bring suit against the federal government under the treaty's terms.
Nate Cardozo, attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation: "Once Apple makes this software, once Apple gives the FBI this skeleton key for this one device for this one investigation, it will open the floodgates."