Speed Reads

Apple vs. FBI

Apple has extracted data from iPhones for law enforcement 70 times

Apple has received much applause from civil libertarian corners for its refusal to comply with an FBI demand to unlock the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone. "We feel we must speak up in the face of what we see as an overreach by the U.S. government," wrote CEO Tim Cook in his public letter explaining the decision.

But perhaps the tech giant's stand isn't quite as principled as it seems. According to prosecutors in a similar court case in New York in 2015, Apple has accessed iPhones for law enforcement some 70 times since 2008. That's a figure Apple itself does not deny, reports The Daily Beast, and the company refused compliance then on grounds of reputational damage.

Also curious is the fact that the same 2015 case acknowledged that authorities have already developed technology independent of Apple to crack some iPhones on their own. While the Department of Homeland Security lawyer stated the program only worked on one version of the iOS system, the judge expressed doubt that the government would admit its capabilities "in open court one way or the other."

Correction February 19: This article originally stated that Apple had unlocked 70 iPhones. However, TechCrunch notes that Apple "has not unlocked these [70] iPhones — it has extracted data that was accessible while they were still locked." The language of this post has been updated to reflect that report. We regret the error.