Should the government be able to access encrypted data on your smartphone? That's the question surrounding the very public pushback Apple is giving the FBI, which is seeking to recover data in the iPhone of one of the shooters in the recent San Bernardino terror attacks. It turns out that what your elected officials think about this question might have a lot to do with the campaign contributions they receive from technology companies and their employees.
After Apple issued a public letter to its customers on the court order, an international coalition of organizations such as SecureTheInternet.org, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Internet Association organized in support of Apple’s encryption practices, saying that governments should never ban or limit access to encryption which they claim is essential for consumer privacy. Executives at major companies such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp have also sided with Apple, all issuing public statements in support of the stand Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has taken on the issue.
These entities are no strangers to Capitol Hill. Because just as they have been at the forefront of shaping new technologies - from the way we consume media, to the way we commute, to the way we communicate - they are also proactive in shaping the debate around government regulations intended to reign them in. It’s no wonder they contribute heavily to policymakers who are willing to champion their issues in the halls of Congress.
Below are the biggest recipients of campaign cash from companies and organizations that support Apple in its opposition to FBI overreach and support consumer access to encryption. Representative Zoe Lofgren, who has received the most from these companies and represents Silicon Valley in Congress, was one of the first to issue a statement in support of Apple. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, who has long championed issues related to privacy and civil liberties, wasn’t far behind in condemning the FBI and has received the most of any US Senator from companies and organizations supporting encryption.
And for what it’s worth Senator Bernie Sanders, who is currently in the race for Democratic presidential nomination, voiced his strong support for civil liberties and consumer privacy when the topic came up in MSNBC’s presidential town hall, and is the US Senator who has received the second most money from employees or PACs associated with Apple.
Meanwhile, a number of politicians who place a greater emphasis on security than civil liberties in the war on terror, immediately voiced displeasure at Apple, suggesting that the company should be forced to break its encryption technology to provide information that might be important in fighting terrorism. These include Senator Tom Cotton, Rep Trey Gowdy, Donald Trump and also Senator Dianne Feinstein - the most prominent Democratic Lawmaker from California not to be included on the “top recipient” list from Apple or other pro-encryption companies.
No matter how you feel about the issue, there’s no doubt that money talks. So how do you feel? Do you support Apple in its battle to protect encryption and consumer privacy? Or do you think that the Government should have access to encrypted data? We’ve identified the lawmakers who have been the loudest on either side of this issue so that you can make your voice heard.
Editor's note: This article originally published on Crowdpac's blog on February 19, 2016.