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Should Apple unlock its iPhones? Judges Split on Apple's Public Responsibility

Should Apple make a way for law enforcement to access their iPhones? That question continues to play out in the courts, and could have a far-reaching effect on technology and privacy laws in the United States.

New York says no

In a recent state case, a federal judge in Brooklyn has voted that the FBI cannot compel Apple to unlock the iPhone of a suspected drug dealer. One reason for the decision that presiding Judge James Orenstein cited was that Congress has already rejected a bill that would require technology companies to give law enforcement access in these types of situations.

In California case, judge says yes

In a debate taking the national stage about personal privacy vs. public safety, Apple is facing a similar push in California, this time surrounding the shooter in the San Bernardino massacre. The simple explanation is that a federal judge has ordered Apple to unlock the shooter's iPhone, and Apple CEO Tim Cooke said no. But Apple is actually being asked to build a so-called "back door" for their ubiquitous phones, to give law enforcement access in this and future cases.

Apple says it would weaken their security

Apple has apparently been willing to assist law enforcement in other cases, but is resistant to creating a feature that leaves their devices more vulnerable to attack. Privacy advocates and other leading technology companies fear the implications if Apple is legally required to weaken their security at the behest of the government. Law enforcement agents cite the increasing digital footprint of crime and their concern that, without access to the information on the phones and computers of criminals like the San Bernardino shooter, there will be an increasing threat to public safety.

With the law, each case provides the opportunity to set precedent. If you do need an attorney, look for one that keeps abreast of all new developments in the law, and has the experience to try the most complex cases.


Williams, Pete, and Andrew Blankstein. "Apple Doesn't Have to Help FBI in New York IPhone Case, Judge Says." NBC News. 29 Feb. 2016. Web. 03 Mar. 2016. <>.

"A Privacy Advocate's View Of Ordering Apple To Help Unlock Shooter's IPhone." NPR. NPR, 17 Feb. 2016. Web. 04 Mar. 2016. <>.

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