In a statement prepared for a hearing Tuesday, Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell said the public should understand that "encryption is a good thing, a necessary thing" even if it makes the work of law enforcement more difficult.
    
The hearing was called with Apple and FBI locked in battle over a warrant seeking to force Apple to help unlock the iPhone used by one of the shooters in last year's San Bernardino attacks.
    
Apple's refusal has set off an intense political debate about encrypted devices which provide "keys" only to users. In his remarks, Sewell said Apple has been stepping up its encryption over the past few years.
    
"As attacks on our customers' data become increasingly sophisticated, the tools we use to defend against them must get stronger too," he said.
    
"Weakening encryption will only hurt consumers and other well-meaning users who rely on companies like Apple to protect their personal information."
    
He added that around the world encryption and other methods help preserve privacy "and it keeps people safe." Sewell said the question of access to the locked iPhone is a question that lawmakers and the public should decide, renewing Apple's criticism of the use of the broad 1789 All Writs Act that offers broad authority to law enforcement.