In a separate iPhone unlocking case, a New York judge has ruled in favor of Apple, concluding that the U.S. Justice Department/FBI can’t force Apple to hack its own iPhones to provide data based on All Writs Act.
This case, which has some similarities to the higher-profile and ongoing San Bernardino case, involves an iPhone 5s belonging to a meth dealer Jun Feng to which FBI was seeking Apple’s help to unlock the phone so that the data on it could be accessed for investigation purposes.
In his order, Federal Magistrate Judge James Orenstein has ruled that the government’s use of 227-year-old All Writs Act did not justify the request, and therefore denied FBI the right to legally force Apple to unlock the phone.
“after reviewing the facts in the record and the parties’ arguments, I conclude that none of those factors justifies imposing on Apple the obligation to assist the government’s investigation against its will. I therefore deny the motion.”
“Ultimately, the question to be answered in this matter, and in others like it across the country, is not whether the government should be able to force Apple to help it unlock a specific device; it is instead whether the All Writs Act resolves that issue and many others like it yet to come. For the reasons set forth above, I conclude that it does not. The government’s motion is denied.”
It goes without saying that this victory could play some role in helping Apple put forward a strong case against a California court ruling which has ordered the company to unlock the iPhone 5c belonging to one of San Bernardino shooters by creating a special backdoor software which Apple is calling “GovtOS“. The nature of crime in the two cases maybe different (drug use vs shooting), but this victory may still have an impact on how the All Writs Act gets used in a future ruling.
The Apple vs FBI battle in San Bernardino case is heading to Congress tomorrow. Apple’s General Counsel Bruce Sewell has already presented the statement and testimony to panel on the company’s behalf, which you can read here.
You can read Federal Magistrate Judge James Orenstein full 50-page order in today’s ruling below:
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