The Apple logo hangs on the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue on Aug. 5, 2015 in New York, N.Y.
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Apple, FBI to face off in congressional hearing on encryption

Apple and the FBI will face off in a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday afternoon — one day after a federal judge in New York ruled that the company does not have to help investigators unlock an iPhone in a drug case.

Apple general counsel and senior vice president Bruce Sewell and FBI Director James Comey will appear on consecutive panels for the hearing, titled “The Encryption Tightrope: Balancing Americans’ Security and Privacy.” Appearing on the second panel alongside Sewell will be New York County District Attorney Cy Vance and Susan Landau, a professor of cybersecurity policy at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

RELATED: Apple doesn’t have to help FBI in New York iPhone case, judge says

“Encryption is a good thing, a necessary thing,” Sewell will testify, according to prepared remarks released by Apple on Monday. “As attacks on our customers’ data become increasingly sophisticated, the tools we use to defend against them must get stronger too. Weakening encryption will only hurt consumers and other well-meaning users who rely on companies like Apple to protect their personal information.”

The hearing comes amid a renewed national debate about the security of the Internet and the devices used by millions of Americans every day, after the FBI asked a court to compel Apple to help them get around safeguards on an iPhone 5C used by San Bernardino massacre shooter Syed Rizwan Farook, and owned by his employer.

Though that case in California and the one in Brooklyn in which the judge ruled on Monday are separate, Apple will be sure to point to the favorable decision as it makes arguments.

Those cases will likely be a centerpiece of the congressional hearing on Tuesday — though neither of them directly addresses the larger issue of encryption: the practice of scrambling data so that it is indecipherable without a special key.

Once a tool of spies and military officials, the technology has become a part of everyday life, built into the fabric of websites, online commerce and the smartphones Americans carry in their pockets in an attempt to keep out hackers and prying governments. Amid that encryption explosion, the FBI director and other officials have for the past several years repeatedly voiced fears about terrorists and criminals “going dark,” and using encryption technology to duck the attention of the law.

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