Apple vs. U.S. Department of Justice, The Winner is Apple

Apple = 1 — U.S. Department of Justice = 0

On Monday, a federal judge went against the Justice Department and surprisingly sided with Apple Inc. The matter was related to forcing the iPhone maker firm to let investigators access data from a locked iPhone. This phone was seized during a drug investigation.

The ruling might have a huge impact on the much-talked-about case of accessing the California shooter’s phone in which both the FBI and Apple are currently involved in a brawl.

Screenshot from the court order

The current ruling might help in outlining the extended debate about privacy, technology and security that is being waged between Silicon Valley and Washington. It must be noted that this ruling has arrived just a day before the FBI head and Apple’s top lawyer will be testifying before Congress, reports the WSJ.

“None of the factors justify imposing on Apple the obligation to assist the government’s investigation against its will,” Judge.

Detailed Analysis:

A 50-page order was issued by Magistrate Judge James Orenstein in which he rejected the argument from the Department of Justice that the All Writs Act gives prosecutors the power to force Apple to access the locked phone by bypassing the password protection system on its iPhone. The Judge stated that the year 1789 All Writs Act will “cast doubt on constitutionality if adopted.’’

The judge further stated that today’s lawmakers need to decide about the serious and excessively increasing privacy and technology issues of the 21st century. He believes that the purpose cannot be achieved by reinterpreting a centuries-old law. He wrote in the order (PDF) that:

“It would betray our constitutional heritage and our people’s claim to democratic governance for a judge to pretend that our Founders already had that debate, and ended it, in 1789.”

Apple’s response to the Ruling:

This is certainly a first-of-its-kind ruling and it is quite evident that it will be reviewed by appeals court judges and both sides may reach the Supreme Court eventually. However, according to a senior Apple executive, this was a thoughtful and cogent ruling since Judge Orenstein declined to accept the New York prosecutors’ demand despite the fact that it was less ambitious than what the prosecutors are seeking to achieve in San Bernardino case. So, it seems that the case in California would be even harder for the Justice Department to win.

Justice Department’s Response:

According to a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, it was a disappointing decision and the department was planning to consult a district judge to review it. She further stated that:

“This phone may contain evidence that will assist us in an active criminal investigation, and we will continue to use the judicial system in our attempt to obtain it.”

The All Writs Act:

This act provides judges extensive authority to order anyone to do what they want to. It is often used to fill the gaps that exist in current laws. Previously, courts used this law to push telecom firms to let agents track and monitor calls or compel landlords to provide security footages. It was also used by law enforcement to force credit-card companies to hand over customer records.

This decision can be termed as a turning point in all respects since Apple has assisted in dozens of such cases in the past but recently, the iPhone maker has taken a firm stance on resisting such compulsions. Judge Orenstein states that Apple wasn’t interfering in FBI’s investigation at all. “. Apple has not conspired with to make the data on his device inaccessible. The government’s complaint is precise that Apple is doing nothing at all,” wrote Orenstein.

In November 2014, Steven C. Frucci, a Circuit Court judge in Virginia stated that police can force criminal defendants to provide their fingerprints, but at the same time, police can’t force the defendant to reveal their passcode.

Bottom line:

If you are using Apple devices, DO NOT use fingerprint ID but only the passcode.


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