New iphone ‘impossible’ to unlock, Apple Inc tells US judge

An Apple logo hangs above the entrance to the Apple store on 5th Avenue in the Manhattan borough of New York City, July 21, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Apple Inc told a U.S. judge that accessing data stored on a locked iPhone would be “impossible” with devices using its latest operating system, but the company has the “technical ability” to help law enforcement unlock older phones.

Apple‘s position was laid out in a brief filed late Monday, after a federal magistrate judge in Brooklyn, New York, sought its input as he weighed a U.S. Justice Department request to force the company to help authorities access a seized iPhone during an investigation.

In court papers, Apple said that for the 90 percent of its devices running iOS 8 or higher, granting the Justice Department’s request “would be impossible to perform” after it strengthened encryption methods.

Those devices include a feature that prevents anyone without the device’s passcode from accessing its data, including Apple itself.The feature was adopted in 2014 amid heightened privacy concerns following leaks by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden about NSA surveillance programs.

Apple told U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein it could access the 10 percent of its devices that continue to use older systems, including the one at issue in the case. But it urged the judge to not require it to comply with the Justice Department’s request.

“Forcing Apple to extract data in this case, absent clear legal authority to do so, could threaten the trust between Apple and its customers and substantially tarnish the Apple brand,” Apple‘s lawyers wrote.

A spokeswoman for Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Robert Capers, whose office is handling the case, declined comment.Earlier this month, Orenstein expressed skepticism about whether he could require Apple to disable security on the iPhone, citing Congress’ failure to act on the issue of encryption despite the urging of the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Orenstein deferred ruling until Apple had a chance to say if it was “technically feasible and, if so, whether compliance with the proposed order would be unduly burdensome.”

Apple in its brief said it limited its views to those questions rather than the broader legal issue at hand, which it called “important.” In an order Tuesday, Orenstein invited Apple to address that issue. A hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

The case is In re Order requiring Apple, Inc to assist in the execution of a search warrant issued by the court, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, No. 15-mc-01902.

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(Editing by Marguerita Choy and Michael Perry)

Reuters

Singapore Reporter/s

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Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

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  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.