DOJ Drops Case against Apple over iPhone Access
The U.S. Department of Justice has dropped its legal claim against Apple Inc. over the FBI’s request that the tech company help unlock the iPhone of one of the shooters in last year’s attacks in San Bernardino, Calif. According to a court filing, the FBI was able to access the device without Apple’s assistance.
The case had become a flashpoint of contention over digital privacy and law enforcement since Apple opposed a mid-February court order that the company assist the FBI in accessing the iPhone owned by Syed Rizwan Farook, a gunman in the December mass shooting that killed 14 people, on the grounds that providing “backdoor” access to the device would compromise the security of all iPhone users. Last week, the Justice Dept. requested a postponement of a hearing related to the case after an “outside party” showed the FBI an alternate method of unlocking the phone.
The success of that alternate method may end the legal standoff for now, but it could also raise new questions about the security of Apple’s devices. Meanwhile, lawyers for Apple previously indicated that the company would want to know how the FBI was able to access the phone without its help in order to shore up any security weaknesses. However, it remains uncertain whether the government will share that information with the company or keep it classified.
The fight over digital privacy could flare up soon in Europe, where officials have advocated for giving intelligence and law enforcement greater power to access data in the wake of recent terrorist attacks.