A large group lined up outside of the Apple store in downtown San Francisco this evening, but not for the usual reasons.
This time, about 60 to 70 protestors swarmed Apple to voice their opposition to an FBI’s court order requiring the tech giant to create a backdoor to iOS encryption. The FBI sent the order to Apple last week over an iPhone belonging to the San Bernardino shooter.
Protestors came from all walks of life, many of them chanting, singing, clapping at various points and eagerly sharing with several news crews why they thought the FBI was in the wrong. One even pulled out his Android phone to prove to me he was there to protest against an increasingly invasive government.
Rallies in support of Apple aren’t the usual, but many in the pro-Apple group tonight agreed the fight went beyond one device and had to do with our setting a precedent for our freedom.
“The thing that really concerns me is that by taking this through the courts it’s going to set a legal precedent no matter what the outcome is,” 47-year-old long-time San Francisco resident and computer programmer Andrea Longo told me at the scene. “And if the FBI gets what it wants everyone else can come along [to Apple] and say ‘you already did it once so why aren’t you doing it for me?'”
There were about 50 protests organized in various cities across the country tonight, headed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Boston-based Fight for the Future. Not every city had as strong of a showing as the one in San Francisco – some tweets show next to no one in Los Angeles and elsewhere, but that was to be expected according to the organizers.
Silicon Valley has been very supportive of Apple’s refusal to bend to the will of the government and many tech leaders, including Google CEO Sundar Pichai and WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum. Both have publicly supported Apple in the fight against the Justice Department.
We spoke to the EFF’s Shahid Buttar and Fight for the Future’s Charlie Furman about the rally and what message they are hoping this will send to the U.S. government about American privacy. You can get those interviews and more on tonight’s event in the video above.