Over 100 million people use Snapchat every day because they feel free to have fun and express themselves. We take the security and privacy of all that self expression seriously. That’s why we’ve filed a legal brief today supporting Apple in its dispute with the FBI.
At the heart of this dispute is a locked iPhone linked to Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the terrorists behind the San Bernardino terror attack. The FBI cannot unlock the iPhone without engineering assistance from Apple, so it got a court order telling Apple to write new iOS code to create a “backdoor” into the phone.
That means a single federal judge has conscripted Apple’s engineers into hacking its own software. Never before has the government asserted—let alone been granted—such a sweeping power to dictate how private companies must design (or dismantle) their own products.
But the concerns here go far beyond any one company’s freedom to engineer its products. The real danger with this ruling is the threat it poses to the security of your information and communications. Here at Snapchat, people trust us to send their content in a way that helps them feel free to be themselves. If a court were to suddenly demand that we re-engineer our products to preserve every Snap that’s ever sent, our service wouldn’t be the same. That’s why we’re standing with Apple.
We want to make very clear that we condemn the unspeakable evil committed in San Bernardino, and extend our bottomless sympathies to the victims and their families. Snapchat has zero regard for terrorists or any other criminals. And we prove it by cooperating with law enforcement when we get lawful requests for assistance. In the first six months of 2015 alone, we processed more than 750 subpoenas, court orders, search warrants, and other legal requests. You can find all the details in our transparency report.
But there’s a big difference between giving the government information we have and being forced to redesign our products to allow access that no one currently has. If one judge can force Apple to create a backdoor into its phone, another judge could make us breach our data protections too.
There’s something else that really bothers us about this ruling. The only basis the government could come up with for this expansive new power was a statute that was passed in 1789. That’s not a typo. A law written more than 220 years ago by the very first Congress—a body of legislators that could scarcely imagine phones, much less smart phones—is the one and only justification for the government’s bold bid to circumvent the democratic process.
There’s an important conversation that we as a nation need to have about how to balance the undeniably important interests in national security with the equally important interests in preserving the privacy and security of personal information. We welcome that conversation. But it’s one that should take place as these things usually do: through democratic exchanges before Congress. Allowing a single judge to impose radical new mandates on tech companies is not the right way to resolve these important debates.
It’s time for lawmakers, businesses, and consumers to have an honest conversation about whether the government should be able to tell businesses how they should design their products.