Apple Fights DOJ Over Attempt to Unlock Seized IPhone

  • Government Says Apple Has Complied With 70 Similar Requests
  • Apple Says DOJ's Demand Goes Beyond Current Legal Authority

Apple Inc. is fighting the U.S. Justice Department’s demand for access to data on an iPhone seized during a drug probe just days after the company’s chief executive officer squared off against the director of National Security Agency over privacy.

The world’s largest technology company appeared in Brooklyn federal court Monday to dispute the government’s claims that the firm can and should be able to let investigators see the data on the phone.

A Justice Department lawyer, Saritha Komatireddy, told U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein that the company has complied with at least 70 similar court orders in the past. The company’s position on the issue now "represents what we consider to be a stunning reversal" of its policy, Komatireddy said.

Marc Zwillinger, a lawyer for Apple, argued that the current request involves newer security features which complicate the unlocking process and that the request goes beyond the boundaries of current law.

"This is pushing the law to a new frontier," Zwillinger said. He argued that the government should ask for more authority from Congress.

Orenstein is weighing a decision which he said he’ll issue later.

Last week at a technology conference in California, NSA Director Admiral Michael Rogers argued a balance needed to be struck between safeguarding user privacy and an ability to identify security threats.

“You can’t have a back door in the software because you can’t have a back door that’s only for the good guys,” Apple CEO Tim Cook responded.

“Nobody should have to decide privacy and security. We should be smart enough to do both,” Cook told the conference, calling any compromise a “cop-out.”

Revelations about U.S. government surveillance programs have spurred an international backlash that may cost U.S. technology companies an estimated $35 billion in lost sales and contracts by 2016, according to a June 9 report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

The case is Order requiring Apple, Inc. to assist in the execution of a search warrant issued by the court et al, 1:15-mc-1902, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).


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