Tech Companies Tangle With U.S. Government Over Access to Data
In an investigation involving guns and drugs, the Justice Department obtained a court order this summer demanding that Apple turn over, in real time, text messages between suspects using iPhones.
Apple’s response: Its iMessage system was encrypted and the company could not comply.
Government officials had warned for months that this type of standoff was inevitable as technology companies like Apple and Google embraced tougher encryption. The case, coming after several others in which similar requests were rebuffed, prompted some senior Justice Department and F.B.I. officials to advocate taking Apple to court, several current and former law enforcement officials said.
While that prospect has been shelved for now, the Justice Department is engaged in a court dispute with other tech companies, Microsoft. The case, which goes before a federal appeals court in New York on Wednesday and is being closely watched by industry officials and civil liberties advocates, began when the company refused to comply with a warrant in December 2013 for emails from a drug trafficking suspect. Microsoft said federal officials would have to get an order from an Irish court, because the emails were stored on servers in Dublin.
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