While a New York federal judge has indicated he will likely refuse a government request to require Apple to unlock a customer’s iPhone, he says he will first ask Apple why decrypting iPhones would be “unduly burdensome.”
The iPhone concerned is apparently not running iOS 8 or 9, and so Apple would have the technical ability to decrypt it.
Magistrate Judge James Orenstein of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York is believed to be making an attempt to open public debate on the issue of personal privacy vs. law enforcement. Judge Orenstein is known to be an “activist judge,” says the Washington Post.
“He’s clearly a judge who is interested in opening topics to discussion in the judiciary, but he also thinks the larger public should know about the debate,” said Brian Owsley, a former magistrate judge in Texas who issued rulings that heightened privacy protections for the government’s use of cellphone-tracking devices.
Apple’s iOS 8 and 9 mobile operating systems include such a level of encryption that the company itself cannot decrypt data when it is served with a warrant. This has lead government law enforcement officials to complain that such encryption could interfere with criminal and terrorism investigations, even going so far as to suggest such encryption will someday lead to the death of a child.
Meanwhile, many websites and platforms continue to be under attack by hackers financed by criminals and foreign governments, making such backdoor access to data another exploit such hackers could exploit to access data.
FBI director James Comey announced at a U.S. Senate hearing of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Thursday, that while the Obama administration will not force corporations, such as Apple, to decrypt communications for law enforcement, it will continue to bring pressure on companies to enable some sort of backdoor for government search requests.