Constitutional Law

Apple moves to vacate court order requiring it to develop software to access encrypted iPhone

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Responding in a Thursday filing to a controversial magistrate’s order requiring Apple Inc. to help the feds access the contents of an encrypted iPhone, the company has asked a federal district court to vacate the order.

Used by a now-deceased California man responsible for San Bernardino attack that killed 14 people, but owned by his employer, which has agreed to let the government see its contents, the iPhone isn’t accessible unless Apple develops special software to defeat its security measures.

In its filing, Apple says a centuries-old law under which the order was granted does not empower the government to require a private company to provide decryption services. And, Apple contends, enforcing the order by requiring the company to create software would violate the company’s free-speech rights under the First Amendment, the Los Angeles Times (sub. req.) reports.

Although the feds have said what the government is asking the company to do would affect only one iPhone, Apple contends the company is on a slippery slope that could affect the owners of hundreds of millions of iPhones if it complies with the order.

“As news of this court’s order broke last week, state and local officials publicly declared their intent to use the proposed operating system to open hundreds of other seized devices—in cases having nothing to do with terrorism,” the company’s motion says. “If this order is permitted to stand, it will only be a matter of days before some other prosecutor, in some other important case, before some other judge, seeks a similar order using this case as precedent. Once the floodgates open, they cannot be closed.”

The New York Times (reg. req.) and Wired also have stories.

Related coverage: “Apple opposes judge’s order to unlock killer’s iPhone, says FBI is misusing the All Writs Act” “DOJ says Apple is ‘not above the law,’ moves to compel compliance with iPhone order”

Business Insider: “John McAfee: I’ll decrypt the San Bernardino phone free of charge so Apple doesn’t need to place a back door on its product”

See also:

KPNX: “War on terror comes to Silicon Valley”

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