[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Friday dropped a request to force Apple [corporate website] to unlock an iPhone linked to a New York drug case, stating that an individual has provided investigators with the passcode to unlock the phone. Federal prosecutors stated [WSJ report] in a letter to US District Judge Margo Brodie of the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York [official website] that the passcode did indeed unlock the phone and that they would no longer needs Apple’s assistance in doing so. The case involved an iPhone 5s that was seized from Jun Feng in 2014 as part of a drug investigation in New York. Feng pleaded guilty last year, but the legal dispute regarding the phone was still an issue. Initially Feng told investigators that he did not remember the phone’s passcode, but according to individuals close to the matter, Feng was the one who provided the passcode this week. Apple had attempted to have the case thrown out, claiming that the government had not exhausted all other options in unlocking the phone.
The US government’s authority to have companies like Apple aid them in accessing devices has been a prominent issue recently. In March the DOJ dropped its case [JURIST report] seeking to compel Apple to assist unlocking the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone, saying the DOJ has accessed the data itself. The DOJ stated that they may have another method to unlock the shooter’s phone and therefore would not need Apple to comply with the order. At the end of February Apple filed [JURIST report] a brief in the US District Court for the Central District of California in opposition of the US government’s request for the company to unlock the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter, Syed Rizwan Farook. Counsel for Apple called the case “unprecedented” after the DOJ filed [JURIST report] a motion to compel Apple to unlock the encrypted iPhone. In response to the legal conflict, Apple asked [JURIST report] the US government to create a panel of experts to discuss issues of security versus privacy. These developments came after Apple refused the initial court order to assist the government in unlocking the iPhone from one of the San Bernardino shooter. The court order required [JURIST report] Apple to supply software to the FBI to disable a self-destruct feature that erases phone data after 10 failed attempts to enter the phone’s password.