×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Apple Can’t Be Forced to Hack iPhone in Drug Probe, Judge Rules

A New York magistrate judge says that Apple cannot be forced by federal authorities to hack into an iPhone as part of an investigation of a drug dealer.

The ruling is a boost for Apple as it also resists government efforts to force the company to assist investigators seeking to bypass the encryption of an iPhone owned by one of the assailants in the December terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, Calif.

In New York, U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein wrote that he could find no justification for “imposing on Apple the obligation to assist the government’s investigation against its will.”

The case involves a Drug Enforcement Agency investigation of Jun Feng, suspected of being involved in drug trafficking. After obtaining a search warrant, the DEA seized Feng’s iPhone but was unable to bypass the device’s passcode security.

In at least a dozen other instances, Apple is facing potential litigation in which authorities may seek to compel the company’s assistance in unlocking a device. In California, the company is appealing a federal judge’s order that it assist the FBI in bypassing security on an iPhone owned by Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the shooters in the San Bernardino attacks.

Federal authorities cited the All Writs Act in trying to compel Apple to assist investigators in bypassing passcode security. It has invoked the same act in asking Apple to help bypass passcode security at least 70 times in the past.

But Orenstein was skeptical that the All Writs Act, enacted in 1789, would apply in this case.

“Under a more appropriate understanding of the AWA’s function as a source of residual authority to issue orders that are ‘agreeable to the usages and principles of law,’ the relief the government seeks is unavailable because Congress has considered legislation that would achieve the same result but has not adopted it,” he wrote in an opinion on Monday.

A Justice Department spokesman said in a statement that the DOJ was disappointed by the decision and planned to appeal.

“As our prior court filings make clear, Apple expressly agreed to assist the government in accessing the data on this iPhone — as it had many times before in similar circumstances — and only changed course when the government’s application for assistance was made public by the court,” the spokesman said.

FBI director James Comey and Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell are scheduled to testify on Tuesday at a Capitol Hill hearing on encryption.

More Digital

  • Google Stadia is a Net Neutrality

    Google Stadia is a Net Neutrality Nightmare

    At the Game Developers Conference (GDC) this year, Google announced that it has taken up the long and ever-lengthening dream of the video game streaming service. Meant to replace the hefty, pricey, altogether confounding experience of buying and using various gaming hardware, Google Stadia will run video games on Google’s own hardware in a server [...]

  • crunchyroll logo

    Crunchyroll Raises Subscription Price to $7.99

    AT&T-owned anime subscription video service Crunchyroll is raising its monthly subscription price from $6.95 to $7.99 a month, it announced in an email to members Friday. It’s the service’s first price increase ever, according to a spokesperson. The new pricing will go into effect on May 1 for new subscribers, while existing members will see [...]

  • StyleHaul

    StyleHaul Shuts Down U.S. Operations, Lays Off About 65 Employees

    The axe is falling on StyleHaul: The fashion, beauty and lifestyle digital media and marketing company owned by RTL Group is shuttering U.S. operations, resulting the layoff of around 65 employees. StyleHaul offices in L.A., with about 55 employees, and in New York City, with around 10 staffers, are closing. RTL said StyleHaul’s U.K. operations, [...]

  • Bandsintown Platform Acquires Hypebot, MusicThinkTank

    Bandsintown Platform Acquires Hypebot, MusicThinkTank

    Bandsintown, a leading platform for letting music fans know about upcoming concerts by their favorite artists, has acquired Hypebot, a news site publishing stories about the music industry and technology, and its sister site MusicThinkTank. “I’m proud to share that Hypebot and MusicThinkTank have been acquired by Bandsintown,” wrote Bruce Houghton, the founder of the [...]

  • Vertigo Games Believes ‘Location-Based Virtual Reality’

    Vertigo Games Believes ‘Location-Based Virtual Reality’ Is Future of VR

    As virtual reality becomes more and more available, many developers are looking for new frontiers to expand the experiences offered by the tech. For Netherlands-based Vertigo Games, that next frontier is what they call “location-based virtual reality.” It’s essentially high-quality VR experiences where players aren’t tethered to a PC or even to the confines of [...]

  • GDC 2019: Google's Play For Gaming

    GDC 2019: Google's Play for Gaming Ubiquity, Rise of Ray Tracing, Store Wars

    The Game Developers Conference finished up Friday evening, wrapping one of the most exciting GDCs in recent memory with Google’s splashy entrance into AAA video gaming, the emergence of real-time ray tracing as a compelling technology for film, TV, and games, and the growing war between two global estore powerhouses: Valve’s Steam and the Epic [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content