Over the summer, the US Department of Justice obtained a court order to force Apple to turn over text messages between subjects in an ongoing investigation made using iPhone and the iMessage system. The court order for the text messages was part of an investigation into suspects allegedly involved in drug and gun related crimes.
When Apple was presented with the court order, the company refused to comply on the grounds that the iMessage system was encrypted and it was unable to hand over the text messages. Law enforcement agencies have warned in the past that issues such as this were going to happen as Apple and Google embraced tougher encryption to protect privacy.
Some law enforcement officials advocate taking Apple to court, but that won’t happen, at least for now. The Justice Department is in another legal battle right now with Microsoft with the case set to go before a federal appeals court this week. That case has to do with Microsoft refusing to comply with a warrant delivered in December 2013 having to do with emails from a drug trafficking suspect.
Microsoft had said that the court order would have to come from an Irish court because the emails in question were physically stored on servers located in Dublin. Cases like these have lawmakers and legislators scrambling to find solutions to the problems faced with technology access today. This legal drama in the tech world is very much like legal actions that telecommunications firms faced in the past. Ultimately, telecom companies had to place access points into digital networks to allow them to comply with legal wiretap orders. Since Apple and Google aren’t telecom firms, they don’t have to comply with those existing laws. The Justice Department wants Apple and Google to have to comply with those laws. Tech firms fear that any back doors into their systems could be exploited by criminals as well.