Digital rights group Fight for the Future is hoping to give voice to ordinary people concerned with the FBI's attempt to force Apple to help it unlock the iPhone used by a mass shooter.
Fight for the Future's new Save Security campaign, launched Wednesday, will collect comments from people worried about the Internet security implications of the FBI's court request. Organizers will display the comments and read them aloud outside a California courthouse before a hearing in the case next Tuesday.
"We're actually trying to give a voice to people all over the world who are extremely concerned about this," said Evan Greer, campaign director for the group. Fight for the Future is trying to "bring those voices into the conversation so that it's not just a fight between a giant company and the government," Greer added.
The group is also asking websites to display logos in support of the Save Security campaign.
Forcing Apple and other tech companies to defeat security protections built into devices will expose users to attacks from criminals and foreign governments, say Fight for the Future and other critics of the FBI's position.
The case is "not just about one phone, it’s about the future of safety and security for millions of people all over the world," Greer said.
But the FBI and President Barack Obama's administrative have argued that encryption and other security features on phones will make it more difficult to investigate crimes and terrorism.
"The question we now have to ask is if technologically it is possible to make an impenetrable device or system where the encryption is so strong there’s no key, there’s no door at all, then how do we apprehend the child pornographer?" Obama said recently. "If you can’t crack that [device] at all, if government can’t get in, everybody’s walking around with a Swiss bank account in their pocket."
Representatives of the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. attorney for the Central District of California, the prosecutor asking the court for access to the iPhone, didn't immediately respond to requests for comments on the Fight for the Future campaign.
The FBI and DOJ want Apple to help them defeat a password security feature on an iPhone used by Syed Rizwan Farook, who killed 14 people in a mass shooting in San Bernardino in December.
The main goal of the new campaign is education, of the public, of lawmakers, of judges, and of the current and next presidential administrations, Greer said.
"It's about educating decision-makers, but the more important thing is winning the hearts and minds of the public and helping people understand what's really going on here," Greer said. "I'm actually kind of shocked and blown away by how many members of the public seem to genuinely understand what's going on here, even given the gravity of the case that the FBI picked."
Recent polls have the U.S. public split on whether the FBI should able to force Apple to cooperate.
Fight for the Future hopes the education campaign targeting the public will have a "trickle up effect" on lawmakers, judges and other decision-makers, Greer said.
Fight for the Future was founded in 2011, but the relatively new group has enlisted tens of thousands of websites and hundreds of thousands of people in some of its past campaigns.
The group organized small flash protests against the FBI's position in about 40 cities last month.