Apple was given a boost in its ongoing tussle with the FBI over providing a means to access the iPhone of the San Bernardino gunman, after a Brooklyn judge backed the firm in a separate case.
US magistrate judge James Orenstein ruled that the All Writs Act of 1789 couldn’t be used to compel Apple to circumvent the security of a device recovered during a drug raid.
Although the owner has already pleaded guilty, the FBI had argued that evidence on the device “will assist us in an active criminal investigation.”
However, Apple maintained that complying with the request “could threaten the trust between Apple and its customers and substantially tarnish the Apple brand,” according to court records seen by Reuters.
"The implications of the government's position are so far-reaching – both in terms of what it would allow today and what it implies about Congressional intent in 1789 – as to produce impermissibly absurd results,” said judge Orenstein.
The Justice Department is said to be “disappointed” by the ruling and will apparently look to get a senior judge to review the decision in the next few days.
The ruling will be a boost for Apple in its fight with the FBI over providing access to the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook, as the Feds are also trying to use the All Writs Act in that case.
While the judge there will not be bound by this decision, it could be influential.
Although Apple has complied in the past with scores of court orders based on the All Writs Act, it is thought they related to devices running iOS versions from which data could be easily extracted.
Since October, the firm has either rejected or is seeking additional information in 12 separate cases – including the Brooklyn one – in which the FBI is trying to use the 1789 law to compel the firm to circumvent iOS security.