While this case appears over, more are likely to emerge, increasing calls for new legislation that clarifies whether law enforcement can seek court orders to get tech companies’ assistance in unlocking phones.
(TNS) — Another iPhone battle has come to an apparently anticlimactic end.
On Friday, the Department of Justice said in a filing that it would no longer seek a court order to compel Apple to help it unlock a Brooklyn drug dealer’s iPhone.
In a letter sent to Judge Margo K. Brodie of the Eastern Distict of New York, who had been considering the government request, U.S. attorneys said that an unnamed individual had provided the device’s pass code and that “the government used that pass code by hand and gained access to the iPhone.”
An Apple spokesman said the company had no comment. In previous court filings, Apple had disputed the agency’s need for its assistance.
In another high-profile case, involving an iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook, the FBI ended up paying more than $1 million dollars to a technical expert who provided a method to bypass Apple’s built-in security protections, according to Director James Comey. In that case, too, the government had sought Apple’s assistance, which the company refused to provide.
“As we have said previously, these cases have never been about setting a court precedent,” Justice Department spokeswoman Emily Pierce said. “They are about law enforcement’s ability and need to access evidence on devices pursuant to lawful court orders and search warrants. ... Because we now have access to the data we sought, we notified the court of this recent development and have withdrawn our request for assistance.”
Pierce said the agency would not reveal the identity of the person who provided the pass code.
While this particular case appears over, more are likely to emerge, increasing calls for new legislation that clarifies whether law enforcement can seek court orders to get tech companies’ assistance in unlocking phones.
In a hearing before a House of Representatives subcommittee Tuesday, Amy Hess, the FBI’s executive assistant director for science and technology, said that the agency had not been able to access data on about 13 percent of the pass-code-protected smartphones it had seized as evidence in the past six months.
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