WSJ: U.S. Justice Department wants Apple to unlock 12 more iPhones

iPhone passcode

Apple is battling against a court order to unlock one iPhone for the FBI, but the U.S. Justice Department wants the Cupertino company to extract data from many more. According to a new report, there are around 12 undisclosed cases similar to that Apple is already fighting.

Just like in the San Bernardino terror case, the others are using the All Writs Act of 1789 to compel Apple to bypass the passcode locks on the devices used by criminals, reports The Wall Street Journalciting unnamed sources familiar with the matter.

“The specifics of the roughly dozen cases haven’t been disclosed publicly, but they don’t involve terrorism charges, these people said.”

This information adds weight to Apple’s concerns — and those of many others — that the San Bernardino case will be the first of many to come. If Apple helps the FBI unlock this iPhone, what’s to prevent law enforcement agencies from expecting the same when other cases arise?

“While the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control,” warned Tim Cook in his open letter last week. “Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices.”

WSJ notes that law-enforcement leaders will use these cases as evidence that encryptions — specifically that which protects our personal data on devices like the iPhone — is a serious problem for criminal investigators in a variety of cases.

In another case in New York, which involves an iPhone seized during a drug investigation, prosecutors “filed a letter with U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein late Monday that indicates there are other cases in which the government has obtained similar court orders,” explains WSJ.

However, “in most cases, rather than challenge the orders in court, Apple simply deferred complying with them, without seeking appropriate judicial relief,” the prosecutors said.

Prosecutors say Apple complied with these orders for years, until late 2015, when the company stepped up its stance on privacy and protecting user data, and began insisting that it should not be forced to comply with such government requests.

Apple has received overwhelming support from the vast majority of its users and peers in the technology industry, including Facebook, Google, and Twitter. Bill Gates is one of the few big names who has instead sided with the FBI, insisting Apple should help with the investigation.

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