Several U.S. technology giants have formally backed Apple in its high-profile legal battle with the FBI over whether the company must weaken the security features of an iPhone that belonged to one of the San Bernardino terrorist attackers.
Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo were among the companies that filed a joint legal brief Thursday in support of their competitor, the California-based Apple.
"If the government arguments prevail, the Internet ecosystem will be weakened, leaving Internet users more vulnerable to hackers and other bad actors," the statement said.
The FBI has asked Apple to write new software that would help unlock the iPhone used by Syed Farook, one of the shooters who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California, last December.
Apple refused the request, saying it cannot be asked to hack one of its own devices. The company says the creation of a "backdoor" could endanger a wide array of devices while raising privacy concerns.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said Wednesday he opposes "a single technical approach" as a solution to the complex legal battle.
"I don't think we ought to let one case drive a general conclusion or solution," Carter said in remarks at a San Francisco tech event. "We have to work together to work our way out through this problem."
Carter also warned that legislation written by Congress to deal with the issue "may be written in an atmosphere of anger and grief" and it may not contain the necessary understanding of current security technology to create an effective law.
Apple filed a formal objection to a federal order to assist the FBI on March 2.
On Thursday, six relatives of victims of the San Bernardino attack filed their own legal brief in support of the U.S. Justice Department.
"One does not enjoy the privacy to commit a crime," the statement said.