The Apple-FBI hearing will be a media circus, and security will be intense

Media circus.
Media circus.
Image: REUTERS/Alexander Natruskin
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Apple and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation are due back in federal court March 22, for a hearing that will decide whether the tech company will have to write a special operating system that lets the government bypass existing security features.

It will be a media circus. (And Quartz will be a part of it.)

US magistrate Sheri Pym—who ruled in February that Apple had to help the FBI hack into an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters—has issued minutes containing rules and guidelines for the hearing. It begins at 1pm PT in the Riverside federal courthouse in California.

Pym said that the courtroom will be able to seat only 54 people. Eighteen of those seats are reserved for Apple and the US government. An overflow room will accommodate 324 spectators.

She also warned of the slow security process at the courthouse, noting that “typically only 50 persons can pass through the line in an hour.” With a maximum of 378 people in attendance, security could take 7.5 hours in total. “The hearing will start regardless of whether spectators are still waiting to get through security,” the document states.

Given the long wait time, it’s likely reporters will start queueing up as soon as tickets are distributed at 7am. Pym also informed attendees that there is no cafeteria inside the courthouse and only “a limited number of vending machines.”