US DOJ claims Apple lacks legal standing to refuse iPhone unlock order

“A federal filing has shed some light on the court matter involving Apple’s unwillingness to unlock an iPhone 5s owner’s phone running iOS 7,” MacNN reports. “The filing, made yesterday, points out the suspect’s name, as well as device type, and notes that Apple has had no problem unlocking devices with court order in the past. Additionally, the US attorneys claim that Apple has no legal standing to decline the search warrant on the basis of tarnishing the brand of the company.”

“Judge James Orenstein so far, is refuting rulings from the ’70s that have been applied by judges recently, and are now being used by the US government to compel Apple to unlock the phone,” MacNN reports. “In his statement, Orenstein stated that Apple is free from what is required of a ‘highly-regulated public utility,’ and as a private firm can ‘choose to promote its customers’ interest in privacy over the competing interest of law enforcement.'”

“The federal filing states that “Apple has acknowledged that it has the technical capability to do so again in this case. It musters only two reasons not to compel its assistance now: it invokes the costs associated with devoting employee time to bypassing passcode-locked iPhones involved in criminal activity and potentially to testifying in federal court,” MacNN reports. “The US government is seeking an expedited judgement to use the materials found on the phone for trial. Arguments, and a follow-up Apple filing, are expected later today.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Since the phone in question is running a pre-iOS 8 operating system which Apple has the capability to access some user-generated files in Apple’s native apps, but it cannot extract email, calendar entries or any third-party app data, according to an earlier response to the court from Apple attorneys:

In most cases now and in the future, the government’s requested order would be substantially burdensome, as it would be impossible to perform. For devices running iOS 8 or higher, Apple would not have the technical ability to do what the government requests—take possession of a password protected device from the government and extract unencrypted user data from that device for the government. Among the security features in iOS 8 is a feature that prevents anyone without the device’s passcode from accessing the device’s encrypted data. This includes Apple. — Apple Inc. legal team

Apple tells U.S. judge it can’t unlock iPhones running iOS 8 or higher – October 20, 2015
a href=””>Apple CEO Cook defends encryption, opposes back door for government spies – October 20, 2015
With Apple court order, activist federal judge seeks to fuel debate about data encryption – October 12, 2015
Judge declines to order Apple to disable security on device seized by U.S. government – October 10, 2015
Apple refused to give iMessages to the U.S. government – September 8, 2015
Obama administration war against Apple just got uglier – July 31, 2015
Edward Snowden: Apple is a privacy pioneer – June 5, 2015
U.S. Senate blocks measures to extend so-called Patriot Act; NSA’s bulk collection of phone records in jeopardy – May 23, 2015
Rand Paul commandeers U.S. Senate to protest so-called Patriot Act, government intrusion on Americans’ privacy – May 20, 2015
Apple, others urge Obama to reject any proposal for smartphone backdoors – May 19, 2015
U.S. appeals court rules NSA bulk collection of phone data illegal – May 7, 2015
In open letter to Obama, Apple, Google, others urge Patriot Act not be renewed – March 26, 2015
Apple’s iOS encryption has ‘petrified’ the U.S. administration, governments around the world – March 19, 2015

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Fred Mertz” and “Edward W.” for the heads up.]


  1. What? all the resources of the NSA and US DOJ cannot unlock (decrypt secured information) on an Apple iPhone.
    Truly astounding.
    A great advertisement for Apple’s software security.

  2. This is all kabuki theatre to make the peasants feel safe. The data on iphones is already compromised. The government just wants to make you feel like it is still safe to store your precious data on the phone, while they continue collecting it. Apple and the government are putting on a big show externally, but behind closed doors, it is in both side’s best interest to make people believe the platform is “secure”.

  3. The NSA already has access to the information “stored” on the iPhone by other means and methods – especially if it is email that has been sent elsewhere from origin. Encryption (like locks) only keeps honest people honest.

  4. HEY US DOJ! Tough luck. It’s all about the USER of the device. Get THEM to unlock it of you. OH, they don’t WANT TO? That’s their LEGAL RIGHT. So HONOR IT!

    As ever: THANK YOU APPLE!

    Go read the US Constitution please, DOJ. You’ll learn something useful.

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