Facebook,Twitter and Google have added their voices to the growing bed of support from technology giants for Apple in its ongoing refusal to help the FBI break into an iPhone used by a shooter in the San Bernardino attack last December.
A Los Angeles Court recently ruled that Apple has to help FBI investigators gain access an iPhone 5C owned by Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the perpetrators of the attack.
The FBI wants Apple to make a new version of the iPhone operating system in order to circumvent its security features in order to gain access to the data within.
Yet Apple has refused, saying that complying would set a dangerous precedent for privacy and could compromise the security of all iPhones if the software was to get into the wrong hands.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey used his company’s service to pronounce his support for Apple stance on the matter, tweeting: "We stand with @tim_cook and Apple (and thank him for his leadership)."
In a statement, Facebook agreed: "We will continue to fight aggressively against requirements for companies to weaken the security of their systems."
Their supportive comments follow tweets from Google CEO Sundar Pichai who said: “Forcing companies to enable hacking could compromise users’ privacy”.
In another tweet, former NSA employee Edward Snowden also weighed in with a characteristic response: “The @FBI is creating a world where citizens rely on #Apple to defend their rights, rather than the other way around.”
The case has intensified the rift between tech companies and law enforcement over the limits of encryption, but law enforcement groups have been vocal about their support for the Justice Department.
Two of New York City's top law enforcement officials have accused Apple of being irresponsible by refusing to help the FBI in its investigation.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance waded into the raging debate calling the iPhone the first consumer product in history designed to be ‘warrant-proof’.
At a news conference with New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton on Friday, Vance said the San Bernardino attack, carried out by a young married couple apparently inspired by Islamic State, is "the most visible example of how Silicon Valley's decisions are thwarting criminal investigations and impeding public safety."
Vance and Bratton said they were simply seeking to execute lawful court orders based on probable cause.
Analysts have said they do not believe the row will have a significant impact on Apple's sales, pointing to its brand power as a likely shield against any immediate backlash from consumers.
Lawyers have said they expect Apple to invoke the United States' protections of free speech as one of its key legal arguments in trying to block the order to unlock the encrypted iPhone.
The company has until 26 February to file a response to the order.
Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, has previously commented on the draft text of the UK’s Investigatory Powers Bill that will oblige communication firms to assist intelligence agencies when they are given warrants to carry out equipment interference.
He said that any attempts to weaken data security to provide a digital ‘back door’ for spies would also benefit criminals.