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Apple has won a New York case in which the government will not be allowed to unlock an iPhone using the All Writs Act (AWA).The case in New York is prosecuting a methamphetamine smuggler who was running iOS 7 on his iPhone. This particular version of iOS is less secure than the iOS 8 which has more extensive encryption.

In a similar case, the FBI requested that Apple open the iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook. According to the FBI, there are national security reasons to unlock the phone since the office shooting is terrorism-linked. Apple is taking a strong stance on civil liberties in the California case as well as the New York case.

Several leaders in the technology community have commented on the impact of these decisions. Harvey Anderson from AVG Technologies states, "With Apple, this is also about the government telling a company how to design its products - in this case, a backdoor to allow the FBI to had a shooters' iPhone." And Jeff Fagnan of Accomplice, a venture capital firm, says if the government wins, "Tech start-ups would re-evaluate how they pitch investors and develop products and services."

The New York ruling may or may not impact the California case and the ruling by Judge James Orenstein is very clear. "I conclude that in the circumstances of this case, the government's application does not fully satisfy the statute's threshold requirements: although the government easily satisfies the statute's first two elements, the extraordinary relief it seeks cannot be considered "agreeable to the usages and principles of law." In arguing to the contrary, the government posits a reading of the latter phrase so expansive - and in particular, in such tension with the doctrine of separation of powers - as to cast doubt on the AWA's constitutionality if adopted."  Translated, this means the AWA cannot be used to compel private companies to pull customer data from locked devices that the government wants.

Most people watching these rulings believe they will go to the Supreme Court. Time will tell what the outcome will be.


Posted: Monday, February 29, 2016 5:27 PM by Dean's Team
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