Apple is not the only one to be asked by the government to break the encryption of its phones. The federal government has also asked Google to help it get into phones running on Android. According to data by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Feds have asked Apple and Google to help break into smartphones at least 63 times.
Apple gets the most requests
On Wednesday, the ACLU said that around 10% of the requests were for phones running on its Android operating system, while the other 90% of the requests were directed towards the iPhone maker.
Google’s dealings with the government over smartphone data have never been made public until now, but it’s not known how many times each company complied with the requests. According to court briefings compiled by the ACLU, the cases in which the government asked for help were related to child pornography, drug cases, etc.
Last year, the government asked Google for its help in getting into the handsets made by manufacturers Kyocera and Alcatel for a drug investigation. The search giant does not make any phone hardware like Apple, but rather, it allows other hardware makers to use its software on their devices.
Google never received All Writs Act order
The tussle between the federal government and Apple is known to everyone because of its high-profile battle over the data on the iPhone 5c used by Syed Farook, one of the two shooters in December’s San Bernardino, Calif. attack.
Regarding this case, the Department of Justice invoked a 1789 law called the All Writs Act, demanding that Apple write software to help it unlock the iPhone used by the shooter. Later, the FBI stated that it did not need Apple’s help as it broke into the phone by itself. The government has been using the All Writs Act, a 227-year-old law that gives the federal courts the power to issue orders, to help unlock consumers’ devices since 2008, said the ACLU.
A Google spokesperson said that they carefully scrutinize subpoenas and court orders to make sure that they meet both the letter and spirit of the law.
“However, we’ve never received an All Writs Act order like the one Apple recently fought that demands we build new tools that actively compromise our products’ security. As our amicus shows, we would strongly object to such an order.”