PhotoThere has been so much back-and-forth in the Apple-FBI dispute that it has at times resembled one of this year's jousting contests posing as presidential debates.

In an attempt to get the argument back on track, a group of consumer privacy organizations have filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of Apple. The Electric Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and eight other organizations argued that the "security features in dispute in this case were adopted to protect consumers from crime."

The brief quotes security experts as saying, in effect, that cell phone security either protects everyone or no one. 

"The security of cell phones is of critical importance to millions of consumers who rely on these devices to protect their most sensitive personal data," the privacy groups argue in their brief. "As the theft of consumer devices continues to rise—millions of cell phones are stolen every year—the associated crimes of financial fraud and identity theft also increase."

Security features on Apple's iPhone and other smartphones help to limit such crimes, limited financial and emotional harm to consumers, the groups say. "If these safeguards are weakened, consumers will suffer, crime will increase, and the work of law enforcement will be made more difficult," the brief argues.

Special protection

The brief notes that the Supreme Court recently found that modern phones store so much sensitive data that they deserve special constitutional protections. 

Apple's encryption software amounts to a digital lock that keeps consumer data safe and should not be disabled for the sake of a single investigation, the organizations say.

"This Court should not order Apple or any company to weaken their digital locks because, if they do, consumers will suffer, crime will increase, and any shortterm benefit that the Bureau may obtain in this case will be more than outweighed by the increase in crime across the country that will result," according to the brief.

Besides EPIC, organizations filing the brief are the Center for Digital Democracy, Constitutional Alliance, Consumer Action, Consumer Watchdog, the Cyber Privacy Project, Patient Privacy Rights, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and Privacy Times. 


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