Apple is fighting a very tough war against the government – a war that revives the topic of privacy and encryption versus national security.
In a rare happening, the iPhone maker has seemingly received backing from a Brooklyn judge, who on Monday said that the U.S. government cannot force Apple to collude in unlocking an iPhone regarding a New York drug case. This ruling comes at a time when Cupertino is facing tough times as the FBI is demanding that the company helps them unlock an iPhone belonging to one of the terrorists who died in last year’s San Bernardino shooting.
In a ruling that falls on the side of Apple, James Orenstein, a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Brooklyn, conceded that he had no legal authority to order Cupertino to disable the security of an iPhone retrieved during a drug investigation. The government asked for the key for unlocking the phone back in October last year. However, it is just recently that it asked for Apple’s help regarding the terrorist attacks in California’s San Bernardino.
Apple and many other tech companies including Microsoft and Facebook have been presenting the same arguments to the state with regards to the San Bernardino case. The judge found that a 1789 law known as All Writs Act cannot be applied in forcing Apple to unlock the iPhone in question. In addition to this, the Brooklyn judge also discovered that according to a 1994 law that was meant to update wiretapping laws, the company was basically exempted from meeting the terms of such requests.
The digital age has brought with it such complications that pit matters of privacy and fighting crime. It is not the first time this debate has surfaced, but this time the battle is fiercer than ever.
Brooklyn case’s ruling has nothing to do with San Bernardino case
Even though Apple is hoping that the decision made in the Brooklyn drug case can have a significant influence in the ongoing case in San Bernardino, it is important to remember that the two are very independent. In fact, U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym is not in any way bound by what Judge Orenstein ruled in his case. However, given that both cases involve the use of All Writs Act, it might trigger another serious debate.
The Justice Department is not happy about what Orenstein ruled in the drug case and according to a representative; the same matter shall be reviewed by a higher judge from within the same federal district in the coming few days.