Apple fans rallied behind their privacy savior in more than 50 cities across the United States today to protest the FBI’s demands that Apple unlock the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone and compromise the security of millions of users’ data in the process.
Grassroots protests broke out from Albuquerque to Washington, D.C., aiming to raise public awareness about the privacy battle Apple is fighting. The protesters had some harsh words for the FBI.
“We’re concerned that if Apple undermines its security in response to the FBI’s request it will set a very dangerous precedence that could be used in any number of cases going forward, both by the U.S. government and by international governments, including authoritarian regimes that might seek to access our information,” Rainey Reitman with the Electronic Frontier Foundation told Cult of Mac.
The rallies drew nearly as many members of the press as they did actual protesters. At San Francisco’s downtown store, about 40 protesters and about 20 members of the press showed up. Fliers were handed out to passersby that included information on the “Don’t break our phones” movement and why they are rallying behind Apple’s efforts to fight against the FBI.
“We’re also worried that that key, once it’s created, could be a honeypot for hackers that might want to seek access to information or could be misused in any diverse ways,” Reitman said. “We don’t think that it’s appropriate that the government order a tech company to undermine its own security in any way.”
Protests began in cities at 5:30 p.m. local time and continued through the evening. Some rally organizers blamed low turnout numbers on weather. At least one would-be protester in Louisiana told Cult of Mac they couldn’t make it to a rally due to tornadoes. Bad weather in New York City canceled the protest there, while security and police threats shut down one in Hong Kong.
Apple has refused to comply with the FBI’s request to hack an iPhone 5c owned by deceased terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook. The device was recovered after a shooting in San Bernardino, California, in which 14 people were killed by Farook and his wife.
In a public letter, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that though Apple believes in fighting terrorism, the FBI’s request that the company hack its own security is “chilling.”
Support for the rallies in Boston, Portland, Reno, Seattle and Los Angeles appeared to be strong, with large crowds gathering in front of Apple Stores holding signs that read “Don’t break our phones” and “Secure phones save lives.” Other protesters ditched the Apple Store and brought their signs to FBI headquarters in the area.
Apple has hired two of the country’s top free-speech attorneys to represent it in its legal battle with the federal government, which could go all the way to the Supreme Court. Apple has until Friday, February 26, to file a legal response to a federal court order to comply with the FBI’s request.
Additional reporting by Traci Dauphin.