DOJ drops second court fight with Apple over unlocking iPhone

The Department of Justice has dropped its appeal of a decision that prevented the government from forcing Apple to unlock a convicted drug dealer’s iPhone, Bloomberg reports. The DOJ had pledged to fight on after a judge ruled the government’s use of the All Writs Act to compel Apple’s assistance was illegal, but dropped the case after obtaining the passcode to access the device from a third-party. That leaves a 50-page ruling supporting Apple’s view in the encryption dispute as the final word on the matter, and while that decision isn’t binding in other cases, it could still influence future court battles.
This marks the second time the government has ended up unlocking an iPhone after telling the courts it has no other options outside of obtaining Apple’s help. Kevin Bankston, director of New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute in Washington, said the case further undermines any future efforts to force Apple’s cooperation to unlock iPhones. “It lets the air out of the tires of the law enforcement’s overall argument that iPhone encryption is a huge burden,” Bankston said. “Being able to demonstrate that they have exhausted all other options before trying to compel Apple is part of what they need to prove in order to get an order against Apple.”

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