Apple may have dodged a bullet after the FBI unlocked the San Bernadino shooter’s iPhone on its own, but it doesn’t look like the legal problems are over yet. Investigators in a drug trafficking case in New York are also asking Apple to retrieve information from an iPhone 5s, and it looks like Cupertino is doubling down on its pro-encryption stance.
It was originally believed that law enforcement agencies would cease their efforts to compel Apple to share user data and unlock devices through legal means; as the FBI had discovered a method of unlocking iPhones without the manufacturer’s help. However, it was later announced that the FBI’s tool only worked on the iPhone 5c; and would be useless against anything better than that particular device.
However, the San Bernadino case is not the only investigation that has attempted to get Apple to cooperate and hand over its user data – as this New York drug case has proven.
Despite this latest move against Apple’s encryption, there are some substantial differences between San Bernadino and New York. For one, the San Bernadino incident was being classified as an act of terrorism – with the investigation being a matter of national security. New York, instead, is dealing with a meth dealer who has already pleaded guilty to the charge.
The New York investigators are also not asking Apple to write software that will allow them to access the iPhone. Instead, they are only asking for Apple to retrieve the user data and share it; as the company has done in the past. The claim here is that the information may be useful in other drug investigations or could be used for sentencing purposes.
Apple is still refusing to cooperate, despite the difference in requests. This is supposedly because the ultimate goal of the federal investigators is to set a legal precedent that could be used to compel just about any tech company to share its data with authorities. Of course, this forgets to mention that many tech companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and – yes – Apple have cooperated with investigations in the past.