Apple couldn’t comply with warrant because of encryption

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Apple rejected a court order to turn over communications sent using its iMessage feature citing its encryption system, The New York Times reported.

It’s a situation the Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI have long warned about, but has rarely been seen.

{mosads}Federal investigators apparently wanted to intercept, in real time, the text messages that two suspects using iPhone were sending to each other. Both individuals were thought to be part of an illegal drugs and guns scheme.

But Apple rebuffed the request, arguing the system is encrypted and the company can’t access those messages.

Reportedly, some within the DOJ and FBI pushed to take the Silicon Valley titan to court over the matter. Officials have backed off for now.

The incident is a stark example of the long-brewing tensions between federal investigators and the tech community.

In the wake of surveillance programs exposed by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft have moved quickly to bolster their encryption in the hopes of keeping customer data out of reach from the government.

Over the last year, officials at the FBI and DOJ have been warning this trend is creating a “going dark” problem, in which terrorists and criminals will be able to safely operate within a lawless zone.

The FBI has even directly confronted senior Apple officials, warning them that blocking out officials with encryption could lead to children dying.

During recent hearings on Capitol Hill, FBI Director James Comey told Congress that investigators had stopped seeking warrants in instances where they knew they would be stymied by encryption.

As a result, the Obama administration has been working on proposals that would allow investigators some type of guaranteed access to customer data in these cases.

Technologists have pushed back, arguing any such requirement would weaken encryption worldwide, lowering cybersecurity standards and leaving customers exposed to cyber spies and cyber criminals.

Privacy advocates also maintain the government has been able to acquire the desired information through other means in the few instances when blocked by encryption.

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