Feds still want Apple to unlock iPhone even after guilty plea

It seems that Apple won't be able to take a breather even after a case it has been dragged into has practically been closed. In a drug-related case in Brooklyn, federal Judge James Orenstein formally asked Apple's input regarding the Department of Justice's request to order Apple to unlock the defendant's iPhone. Apple naturally argued against it. The whole matter would have been moot since the defendant plead guilty to the charges, but the DOJ hasn't retracted its application and the judge himself is puzzled by it.

At first glance, it seemed that the prosecution wanted to extract evidence from the iPhoen of the defendant, a certain Jun Feng, directly related to the case. But since Feng plead guilty to the lesser charge of one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, the request to order Apple's cooperation should have been rendered moot. The judge thinks so too but the government is having none of that. Now Orenstein is asking the government to explain why.

Apple's reply has mostly been technical, but not in this particular case. It has declared that it is technically impossible to unlock encrypted devices running iOS 8 or later. But since the iPhone in question was still on an older iOS version, Apple could still do so. The company, however, emphasized that if it is forced to comply, it would cause irreparable damage to its reputation and relationship with customers. Unsurprisingly, the government thinks its argument is rubbish.

Still, it might have no legal grounds to make Apple comply now that the case is near its close. It could be looking for something that could affect the defendant's sentencing. But it could also be fishing for other evidence not directly to this specific case. Either way, if the government is granted its application, it would have set a legal precedent to make Apple comply with such actions even against its recommendation.

VIA: Ars Technica