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FAQ: Everything we know so far about Apple's battle with the FBI

Susie Ochs | Feb. 23, 2016
This is a complicated case that could stretch on for months, but we'll keep this updated as more news breaks.

What other court is Apple objecting to?

There’s another case pending in New York, in which an iPhone 5s belonging to a suspected meth dealer is running iOS 7, but Apple still doesn’t want to help.

Why doesn’t Apple want to help in New York?

In a response filed in the New York case, Apple argues that “social awareness of of issues relating to privacy and security, and the authority of government to access data is at an all-time high. And public expectations about the obligation of companies like Apple to minimize government access within the bounds of the law have changed dramatically.” So the time is right to reexamine the authority given to the government by the All Writs Act, Apple is arguing.

It sounds like, from that filing, that Apple just wants out of the iPhone-data-extraction business. The filing explains how starting with iOS 8 Apple doesn’t have the technical ability to do what it once did, and that iOS 7 devices like this one “are becoming rare as they compromise less than 10 percent of the devices in the U.S.” Apple doesn’t want to take its engineers’ time doing the extraction or testifying in court about it, even though the company would be able to claim expenses.

After all, as the final reason argues, you can’t claim expenses for damage to the brand. “Forcing Apple to extract data in this case, absent clear legal authority to do so, could threaten the trust between Apple and its customers and substantially tarnish the Apple brand. This reputational harm could have a longer term economic impact beyond the mere cost of performing the single extraction at issue.”

The legal fight: What happens next?

What’s the deal with the All Writs Act, which Apple is objecting to?

Both this new order and the New York case use the All Writs Act of 1789. In fact, in the case going on in the Eastern District of New York, Apple is arguing that extracting data from a drug dealer’s iPhone 5s running iOS 7 is overly burdensome on manpower and resources, as well as an overly wide application of the All Writs Act. Matthew Panzarino at TechCrunch has a great explanation, and you can also read Apple’s filing questioning the AWA.

According to the Feburary 19 filing in the California case, “The All Writs Act provides in relevant part that ‘all courts established by Act of Congress may issues all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictons and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.’” It’s kind of a catch-all, in other words: “As the Supreme Court explained, ‘the All Writs Act is a residual source of authority to issue writs that are not otherwise covered by statute.’”


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