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DOJ seeks to overturn ruling in New York iPhone case

The department used the San Bernardino court's decision as evidence.

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The Justice Department hasn't given up on its quest to get a court order that will force Apple to unlock a meth dealer's iPhone in New York. On February 29th, magistrate Judge James Orenstein ruled that the FBI and the prosecution didn't have the legal authority under the All Writs Act (AWA) to force the company to bypass the device's passcode. Obviously, the DOJ disagrees. It has asked a higher judge (specifically, US District Judge Margo Brodie) to take a look at the case again in hopes of reversing Judge Orenstein's ruling.

In a statement sent to Engadget, Apple said it shares Judge Orenstein's concerns that the misuse of the AWA could threaten ordinary people's privacy:

Judge Orenstein ruled the FBI's request would 'thoroughly undermine fundamental principles of the Constitution' and we agree. We share the Judge's concern that misuse of the All Writs Act would start us down a slippery slope that threatens everyone's safety and privacy.

To note, the All Writs Act is an old law authorities are relying on to seek help in cracking open password-protected phones.

According to Reuters, the department cited Apple's case in California as evidence -- standing in contrast to other statements by law enforcement saying that case applies to just one particular iPhone. That's the same case wherein authorities succeeded in getting the court to order the company to open up the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone 5c under the All Writs Act. The tech corporation is currently fighting that ruling and is willing to escalate the battle until it reaches the Supreme Court.

Besides the California case, the DOJ also argued that cracking Jun Feng's (the meth dealer's) phone to find his collaborators isn't anything new for the company. Feng hasn't been updating its software, and it's still running iOS 7, which is nowhere as secure as the newest version. The department said Apple agreed to crack devices running the older software for several cases in the past, and this shouldn't be any different. Whether the DOJ can sway Judge Brodie to hear the case and ultimately side with the feds remains to be seen -- we'll keep you updated as always.

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