New York judge rules in favor of Apple in encryption case

Federal judge in Brooklyn rules that US government can not force Apple to unlock iPhone in drug investigation

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A federal judge in Brooklyn ruled on Monday that the US government does not have right to force Apple to unlock an iPhone to facilitate FBI’s work on a drug investigation.

The decision came just weeks after a judge in California ordered the firm to share data of a phone used by Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the deceased suspects in the San Bernardino, California, attacks that claimed 14 lives last year.  

Based on the All Writs Act which adopted in 1789,  US Magistrate Judge James Orenstein in Brooklyn ruled that Apple is not obliged to disable the security of the phone.

"The implications of the government's position are so far-reaching – both in terms of what it would allow today and what it implies about Congressional intent in 1789 – as to produce impermissibly absurd results," the judge wrote in his ruling.

He also added that the company is largely exempt from complying such requests under Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, passed in 1994.

The iPhone 5s which is the subject of the case was seized by the US Drug Enforcement Administration in 2014 in Queens, New York, during a search in residence Jun Feng, who involved in drug trafficking and pleaded guilty in October.

Following the ruling, a senior Apple executive who spoke on condition of anonymity told reporters that US Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym who hears the case of the San Bernardino attack is not bound with the Orenstein’s decision but it can have an affect on the conclusion.

He said that the government's demands in the San Bernardino case, which include compelling Apple to alter its operating system, were even more far-reaching than in the NY case.

The Justice Department is "disappointed" in Orenstein's ruling and plans to ask a higher judge within the same federal district to review the matter in coming days, a department representative said.

When fighting the government's order to help extract data from the iPhone, Apple had argued that being forced to do so "could threaten the trust between Apple and its customers and substantially tarnish the Apple brand," according to court records. Inc, Alphabet Inc's Google, Facebook Inc, Microsoft Corpand Twitter Inc have put their support behind the Apple.

TRTWorld and agencies