Judge: No Forcing Apple to Unlock (Another) iPhone

Decision gives Apple boost ahead of congressional hearing
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 1, 2016 1:31 AM CST
Judge: Feds Can't Force Apple to Unlock iPhone
New York police officers stand outside the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue while monitoring a demonstration last week.   (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

A judge in New York has handed Apple a major victory in its encryption battle with the federal government. In a case involving the locked iPhone of a suspected drug trafficker , the judge ruled that the government can't use the 1789 All Writs Act to force Apple to weaken its security measures and create a way for investigators to access the phone, Gizmodo reports. The government is trying to use the act in a way so far-reaching that it would "produce impermissibly absurd results," New York Magistrate Judge James Orenstein wrote, noting that the government is clearly trying to obtain "crypto-legislative authority" in the courts "rather than taking the chance that open legislative debate might produce a result less to its liking."

The government is also trying to force Apple to unlock the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook. The two cases are unrelated and the New York ruling will have no bearing on the California one, but Apple believes the new decision adds weight to its position ahead of a congressional Judiciary Committee hearing on the Farook case Tuesday, the BBC reports. TechCrunch reports that in his opening statement, Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell will argue that strong encryption is a good and necessary thing, and that weakening it will "only hurt consumers and other well-meaning users who rely on companies like Apple to protect their personal information." He plans to say that the FBI's request will set a "dangerous precedent" that will make all iPhones less secure. (Read more Apple stories.)

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