UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights , Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has warned that a ‘Pandora’s box’ will be opened if Apple, the technology company, co-operates with the FBI.

The FBI wants to unlocked the iPhone used by Syed Farook, who was behind the San Bernardino massacre along with his wife Tashfeen Malik that left 14 people dead in December 2015. Zeid said the law enforcement agency ‘deserves everyone’s full support’ in its investigation.However, encryption was essential in the interests of freedom, he added.

‘There are many ways to investigate whether or not these killers had accomplices besides forcing Apple to create software to undermine the security features of their own phones,’ he said in a statement. ‘It is potentially a gift to authoritarian regimes, as well as to criminal hackers. ‘Encryption and anonymity are needed as enablers of both freedom of expression and opinion, and the right to privacy. Without encryption tools, lives may be endangered.’–Special Correspondent

The FBI has asked Apple to disable a feature that means the data on an iPhone is erased after 10 incorrect attempts at the four-digit password. It also wants to be able to run software that could go through the 10,000 possible combinations to unlock the gunman’s handset quickly.

Apple says agreeing to the request would set ‘a dangerous precedent’. A number of major tech firms have also pledged their support for Apple’s refusal to circumvent its own security.Two groups of tech giants have now filed an amicus brief, which allows parties not directly involved in a court case, but who feel they are affected by it, to give their view.

They include Twitter, AirBnB, eBay, LinkedIn, Reddit, Amazon, Microsoft, Snapchat and Yahoo.However, a lawyer representing a group of Farook’s surviving victims said he would file similar legal paperwork on their behalf in support of the FBI. ‘They were targeted by terrorists, and they need to know why, how this could happen,’ said Stephen Larson, a former judge. He declined to say how many of the victims he was representing, but did add that he would not be charging them a fee.

‘There are many ways to investigate whether or not these killers had accomplices besides forcing Apple to create software to undermine the security features of their own phones. ‘It is potentially a gift to authoritarian regimes, as well as to criminal hackers.’

Zeid said encryption tools were widely used around the world, including by human rights defenders, civil society, journalists, whistle-blowers and political dissidents facing persecution and harassment. ‘Encryption and anonymity are needed as enablers of both freedom of expression and opinion, and the right to privacy. Without encryption tools, lives may be endangered.’

Three tech associations representing Apple’s main business rivals - including Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo - said Thursday they supported Apple’s efforts to challenge the order. ‘If the government arguments prevail, the Internet ecosystem will be weakened, leaving Internet users more vulnerable to hackers and other bad actors,’ said a statement from the Computer and Communications Industry Association, which announced the joint brief with the Internet Association and the i2Coalition of Internet infrastructure firms.

But relatives of some of the San Bernardino victims backed the FBI bid in a legal brief filed in the court where the case is being heard. They said Apple wanted to portray the debate as ‘one in which the privacy interests of millions of Americans are at stake in order to obtain sympathy for its cause.’ ‘What is implicated here is the United States’ ability to obtain and execute a valid warrant to search one phone used by a terrorist who committed mass atrocities,’ the brief said.