U.S. cannot make Apple provide iPhone data: federal judge

NEW YORK -- A federal judge ruled Monday that the U.S. Justice Department cannot use a 227-year-old law to force Apple to provide the FBI with access to locked iPhone data, dealing a blow to the government in its battle with the company over privacy and public safety.

See Full Article

The ruling, by U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein, applied narrowly to one Brooklyn drug case, but it gives support to the company's position in its fight against a California judge's order that it create specialized software to help the FBI hack into an iPhone linked to the San Bernardino terrorism investigation.

Both cases hinge partly on whether a law written long before the computer age, the 1789 All Writs Act, could be used to compel Apple to co-operate with efforts to retrieve data from encrypted phones.

"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," Orenstein wrote. "I conclude that it does not."

Apple's opposition to the government's tactics has evoked a national debate over digital privacy rights and national security. On Thursday, the Cupertino, California-based company formally objected to the order in a brief filed with the court, accusing the federal government of seeking "dangerous power" through the courts and of trampling on the company's constitutional rights.

The separate California case involves an iPhone 5C owned by San Bernardino County and used by Syed Farook, who was a health inspector. He and his wife Tashfeen Malik killed 14 people during a Dec. 2 attack that was at least partly inspired by the Islamic State group. The couple died later in a gun battle with police.

The New York case features a government request that is far less onerous or invasive for Apple and its cellphone technology; the extraction technique exists for that older operating system and it's been used before some 70 times before to assist investigators.

Since late 2014, that physical extraction technique hasn't existed on newer iPhones. In California, U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym ordered investigators to create specialized software to help the FBI bypass security protocols on the encrypted phone so investigators can test random passcode combinations in rapid sequence to access its data.

The court ruling comes one day before a Tuesday congressional hearing that will include testimony from FBI Director James Comey and Apple General Counsel Bruce Sewell on encryption and "balancing Americans' security and privacy."

Orenstein said he was offering no opinion on whether in the instance of this case or others, "the government's legitimate interest in ensuring that no door is too strong to resist lawful entry should prevail against the equally legitimate societal interests arrayed against it here."

He said the interests at stake go beyond expectations of privacy and include the commercial interest in conducting business free of potentially harmful government intrusion and the "far more fundamental and universal interest" of protecting data from the harms of improper access and misuse.

He noted that Congress has not adopted legislation that would achieve the result sought by the government and said it must be discussed by "legislators who are equipped to consider the technological and cultural realities of a world their predecessors could not begin to conceive."

The Justice Department said in a statement that it's disappointed in the ruling and plans to appeal in coming days. It said Apple had previously agreed many times prior to assist the government and "only changed course when the government's application for assistance was made public by the court."

A senior Apple executive said that the company policy has been to give the government information when there's a lawful order to do so, but that in New York the judge never issued an order and instead asked attorneys about the constitutionality of the government's use of the All Writs Act to compel it to help law enforcement recover iPhone data in criminal cases. The executive spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a pending legal matter.

Apple has since declined to co-operate in a dozen more instances in four states involving government requests to aid criminal probes by retrieving data from individual iPhones.



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • Common genetic trait links human and doggy friendliness

    Tech & Science CBC News
    We may be more like our dogs than we know. Scientists studying the genetic basis for dog friendliness have found it comes from a portion of their genome that is similar to the area in the human genome that relates to sociability. Source
  • Man says he punched grizzly bear in the nose in B.C.

    Tech & Science CTV News
    QUALICUM BEACH, B.C. - A British Columbia man's beachcombing trip turned into a harrowing fight for survival as a grizzly bear flailed him around "like a puppet." Fifty-seven-year-old Randal Warnock says he had been walking on the beach on Brown Island on B.C. Source
  • 'Mystery' signal from space is solved; it's not aliens

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Astronomers have finally solved the mystery of peculiar signals coming from a nearby star, a story that sparked intense public speculation this week that perhaps, finally, alien life had been found. It hasn't. The signal, which has been formally named "Weird!" was interference from a distant satellite. Source
  • Possible melted fuel seen for first time at Fukushima plant

    Tech & Science CTV News
    TOKYO -- An underwater robot captured images of solidified lava-like rocks Friday inside a damaged reactor at Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, spotting for the first time what is believed to be nuclear fuel that melted six years ago. Source
  • Robot finds likely melted fuel heap inside Fukushima reactor

    Tech & Science CTV News
    TOKYO - An underwater robot has captured images of massive deposits believed to be melted nuclear fuel that are covering the floor of a damaged reactor at Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant. Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. Source
  • North Atlantic right whale to be examined on N.B. island

    Tech & Science CTV News
    MISCOU ISLAND, N.B. -- Marine mammal experts will examine another North Atlantic right whale today after it was found dead in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The federal Fisheries Department says the necropsy is being conducted near the Miscou Island Lighthouse on the northern tip of Miscou Island, N.B. Source
  • Elephant seals have rhythm and they know how to use it

    Tech & Science CBC News
    New research published in the journal Current Biology finds that elephant seals identify one another by the rhythm in their calls, much the way humans can discern accents and vocal tone. Previously there was no recorded example of a non-human mammal that could remember and recognize a wide range of rhythms. Source
  • Moon dust collected by Neil Armstrong sold for $1.8 million

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NEW YORK -- A bag containing traces of moon dust sold for $1.8 million at an auction on Thursday following a galactic court battle. The collection bag, used by astronaut Neil Armstrong during the first manned mission to the moon in 1969, was sold at a Sotheby’s auction of items related to space voyages. Source
  • Moon dust collected by Neil Armstrong sold for US$1.8 million

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NEW YORK -- A bag containing traces of moon dust sold for $1.8 million at an auction on Thursday following a galactic court battle. The collection bag, used by astronaut Neil Armstrong during the first manned mission to the moon in 1969, was sold at a Sotheby’s auction of items related to space voyages. Source
  • China announces goal to dominate AI field by 2030

    Tech & Science CTV News
    BEIJING -- China’s government has announced a goal of becoming a global leader in artificial intelligence in just over a decade, putting political muscle behind growing investment by Chinese companies in developing self-driving cars and other advances. Source