The US Department of Justice (DOJ) is considering court orders to force Apple’s cooperation in about a dozen undisclosed cases involving locked iPhones needed as evidence, according to a report.
The move, reported by The Wall Street Journal, follows the DOJ’s court battle with Apple over a locked iPhone 5C that had belonged to a suspect in the San Bernardino, California shootings last December.
The other cases involve a variety of criminal investigations that do not tend to involve terrorism charges, the Journal reported, citing unnamed sources.
In those cases prosecutors are seeking Apple’s help in bypassing the security features of handsets that in some instances use older versions of the iOS operating system, which don’t have the same level of security as the newer iPhone 5C involved in the San Bernardino case. The details of the cases are not yet public, according to the Monday report.
In refusing to help the FBI access the iPhone involved in the San Bernardino case, Apple has argued that it would set a dangerous precedent that could be applied elsewhere, while the FBI has said the case is limited in scope.
The conflict has gained broad attention, with both the FBI and Apple appealing to the general public for support.
The DOJ on Friday filed a motion seeking to compel Apple to comply with a judge’s order early last week to help bypass the handset’s encryption, arguing that Apple’s objections were part of a “marketing strategy”, and on Sunday FBI director James Comey said in a blog post that the case was “about the victims and justice”.
In response, Apple chief executive Tim Cook on Monday in an email to staff reiterated his position that broad issues of privacy were involved.
“At stake is the data security of hundreds of millions of law-abiding people and setting a dangerous precedent that threatens everyone’s civil liberties,” he wrote.
Apple on Monday also called for the US government to form a panel on encryption.
Polls have shown US public opinion roughly evenly divided in support for the FBI and Apple.
The company is obliged to file its response to last week’s court order by Friday.
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