NY Judge Rules That Government Can’t Force Apple To Unlock iPhone

NY judge ruled in favor of Apple in the case of decryption

Credit: Independent

Credit: Independent

In an interesting turn of events, a US magistrate judge in New York has ruled on a case involving Apple and the government and determined that the All Writ’s Act does not require that Apple comply with the US government.

The case that the judge ruled on was over a drug trafficking charge in which DEA agents discovered an iPhone 5S with a passcode that they wanted to override. The current and commonly known case of Apple fighting the government over encryption is regarding the San Bernardino shooting, where the FBI’s defense has been that decryption would greatly benefit national security. In this case with Jun Feng, the suspect charged with conspiracy to traffic methamphetamine, there is no mention of national security, yet the government is still demanding that Apple help them break down their phone’s security.

In his official order, magistrate Judge James Orenstein of New York states, “More specifically, the established rules for interpreting a statute’s text constrain me to reject the government’s interpretation that the AWA empowers a court to grant any relief not outright prohibited by law.” Judge Orenstein went on to state that this matter of forcing Apple to comply with the investigations is meant for Congress, and that there should be an explicit law outlining how tech companies must help in federal investigations.

An Apple senior executive stated that while the company is excited about this ruling, as it has been in discussions with Judge Orenstein since the government first sought after Apple to decrypt the phone, Judge Pym is not bound by law to follow the ruling as well. Apple and the Department of Justice are set to argue their case over the phone in the San Bernardino case in front of Judge Pym later this month.

Apple noted that it has never created or signed any piece of software made to decrypt iPhone, as the senior executive stated in a conference call with reporters. They have consistently given law enforcement iCloud backups when asked to because it’s the only data they have in their possession, proving that they are typically compliant with the government when it is within their means.

While this is a win for Apple in its battle against the FBI, they still have the daunting task of proving that decrypting an iPhone actually harms national security and American liberties. The fear in America that’s caused a demand for heightened national security right now is at an all-time high and it’s possible that this fear could override America’s yearning for individual freedom.

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