Apple Inc.’s tiff with the FBI is getting more complex. Now the tech firm has received a request from the Justice Department to help unlock nine more iPhones nationwide, apart from the one belonging to the San Bernardino, Calif. terrorist. The new request seems to support the iPhone maker’s concerns that the dispute with the government over encryption issues could threaten safeguards and go far beyond the single California case.
Apple being forced to cooperate
Apple’s lawyer, Marc J. Zwillinger, said in a letter that was unsealed on Tuesday in federal court that there are nine other such cases of demands from the government, and Apple is fighting at least seven of them.
“Apple has not agreed to perform any services on the devices,” Zwillinger said.
In the letter, the lawyer said the company has been receiving orders from the Justice Department, which is trying to force its cooperation through the All Writs Act, which is a statute adopted in 1789. But Apple has been objecting to such efforts since December. The act states that courts can require actions to comply with their orders, says a report from The New York Times.
In the San Bernardino case, Apple has received demands from several prosecutors for help in hacking into the iPhone of Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the two terrorists in the December attack which resulted in 14 deaths and left many people injured.
Apple’s stance so far
A judge demanded that Apple create a special tool investigators could use to crack the phone’s passcode more easily in the San Bernardino case, but the company challenged the judge’s demand and has repeatedly asserted that it cannot make such a move in isolation.
Previously, Apple chief executive Tim Cook said in a letter to customers, “Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices.”
On Monday in a note on its website, the iPhone maker stated that if the FBI wins the case, there are hundreds of iPhones which law enforcement agencies nationwide want Apple to unlock.
Apple has maintained that it would comply with a court order and hand over data to them if it was technically able to do so. In a transparency report covering the first six months of 2015, the company said that government agencies worldwide sent nearly 11,000 requests for information on roughly 60,000 devices, and in about 7,100 instances, the company provided some data.