U.S. to continue appeal of iPhone data case in New York

Fri Apr 8, 2016 7:37pm EDT
 
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By Julia Love, Joseph Menn and Nate Raymond

(Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department on Friday said it would keep fighting to force Apple Inc to open an iPhone in a New York drug case, continuing its controversial effort to require Apple and other tech companies to help law enforcement authorities circumvent encryption.

Just two weeks ago, the government dropped its effort to require Apple to crack an iPhone used by one of the shooters in the December attacks in San Bernardino, California, saying it had unlocked the phone without Apple's help.

Some observers thought the government would back away from the New York case too, since the suspect has already pleaded guilty. But in a letter filed in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, the Justice Department said, "The government continues to require Apple's assistance in accessing the data that it is authorized to search by warrant."

An Apple attorney said Friday the company was disappointed but not surprised that the government would continue to fight in New York after giving up in California.

He said the appeal belied the FBI's claim that the San Bernardino case was about a single phone and the need to stop future terror acts.

Apple, with the strong support of most of the technology industry, argues that requiring it to circumvent the encryption in its own products would inevitability open the door for hackers and foreign spies and undermine security for everyone. The company has said it is willing to take the issue to the Supreme Court.

The phones in the two cases have different security features, with the New York phone running an earlier version of the iPhone operating software. The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, James Comey, who is leading the battle against Apple, said Thursday that the method used on the San Bernardino phone would not work on other models.

But the New York phone is much easier for Apple to break into. Apple has acknowledged it could get data from the drug dealer's phone without crafting special software, as it would have had to do with the San Bernardino phone.   Continued...

 
The gold colored version of the new iPhone 5S is seen after Apple Inc's media event in Cupertino, California September 10, 2013. REUTERS/Stephen Lam