But it’s not just the FBI that has asked help with accessing data from case-critical iPhones. And it’s not just iPhones that law enforcement agencies have wanted to get into.
The American Civil Liberties Union has uncovered 63 cases in which various agencies under the Department of Justice have compelled Apple or Google to assist in breaking the encryption of mobile devices through a 1789 statute called the All Writs Act. Apple claims an additional 12 cases but has not listed docket numbers for them. The ACLU has also been able to confirm a case in Massachusetts independent of its recent round of Freedom of Information Act requests filed jointly with the Stanford Center for Internet and Society.
As a refresher, the All Writs Act is essentially a cover-all solution for the government to compel third parties to aid it in enforcing law wherein judicial alternatives aren’t feasible.
The 76 cases span across 22 states including California, Florida, New York and Washington. Nine of them request Google’s help in cases where Android phones from Samsung, Alcatel and other manufacturers are involved. The rest asked for Apple’s assistance. Including the unlisted cases from Apple, 32 of the requests did not specify what type of assistance was being requested. The other cases had DOJ agencies including the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, ATF and the Secret Service requesting password resets, lock screen bypasses, data extraction and code creation (that’s the San Bernardino case).
The ACLU is making the case that All Writs Act orders are made more often than the government would want you to believe. It has other FOIA requests looking to find more orders.