Breaking News Technology

Government Regularly Seeks Aid From Apple, Google to Unlock Smartphones

Blue represents orders presented to Apple, red represents orders presented to Google, purple represents orders presented to both Apple and Google.

The federal government has tried to force technology companies to unlock customers’ Smartphones far more often than it will admit.

The ACLU today released court documents that revealed 63 confirmed cases in which the U.S. government applied for a court order, citing the All Writs Act, to force either Apple or Google to help law enforcement access data on a mobile device.

The organization also posted an interactive map on its blog offering a pretty comprehensive look at just how many court orders the government seeks. The orders come from a number of federal agencies including the FBI, the Justice Deptartment, the Secret Service, Homeland Security and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

“In addition to the 63 confirmed cases, we know of up to 13 additional cases, which are reflected on the map,” ACLU attorney Eliza Sweren-Becker wrote in a blog post.

“Apple has identified 12 pending cases (though its docket numbers remain unknown) and we uncovered one case in Massachusetts, which has not yet been confirmed because of a lack of publicly available information.”

The majority of the cases are related to drug crimes and extend across the U.S., although many of the cases are in California and New York: 14 and 12 respectively.

And there are likely more out there the ACLU has yet to learn about. The ACLU has filed a number of FOIA requests with the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, meaning more cases are likely to pop up as more documents are made public.

“The FBI wants you to think that it will use the All Writs Act only in extraordinary cases to force tech companies to assist in the unlocking of phones,” Sweren-Becker said. “Turns out, these kinds of orders have actually become quite ordinary.”

The issue has only recently garnered the public’s attention. In February, Apple was the recipient of a federal court order to help the FBI unlock the iPhone of one of the attackers to carry out the Dec. 2 terrorist attack that killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif.  In the order, the judge said Apple must provide “reasonable technical assistance” to law enforcement in the recovery of data from the iPhone 5c.

Apple, of course, went to court over the issue and, this week, the FBI said it no longer needed the tech company’s assistance after a third-party stepped in to help the law enforcement agency crack the encryption.

Below is a list of all of the known pending court orders:


 

·  Alabama

2 All Writs Act cases

Apple – assistance type unspecified: United States v. Apple iPhones 4, No. 1:13-mj-00098-C (S.D. Ala. 2015)

Google – assistance type unspecified, investigation by the DEA:In re Search of LG Smartphone, No. 1:13-mj-00115-B (S.D. Ala. 2013)

 

·       Arizona

3 All Writs Act cases

Apple – assistance type unspecified: United States v. Sealed Warrant, No. 4:15-mb-01692-BGM (D. Ariz. 2015)

Apple – assistance type unspecified: United States v. Search Warrant, No. 2:15-mb-01249-JFM (D. Ariz. 2015)

Apple – assistance type unspecified: United States v. Search Warrant, No. 3:15-mb-04035-MEA (D. Ariz 2015)

 

·       California

14 All Writs Act cases

Apple – lock screen bypass, investigation by the FBI: In re Order Requiring Apple, Inc. to Assist in the Execution of a Search Warrant Issued by this Court, No. 4:14-cr-90812-KAW (N.D. Cal. 2014)

Google – password reset, investigation by DHS: In re Order Requiring Google, Inc. to Assist in the Execution of a Search Warrant Issued by this Court, No. 2:15-sw-00568-KJN (E.D. Cal. 2015)

Apple – lock screen bypass: In re Order Requiring Apple, Inc. to Assist in the Execution of a Search Warrant Issued by this Court, 5:14-xr-90470-HRL(N.D. Cal. 2014)

Apple – create code, investigation by the FBI: In re Search of an Apple iPhone Seized during the Execution of Search Warrant on a Black Lexus IS300, California License Plate 35KGD203, No. 5:16-cm-000010-SP and 5:15-mj-00451 (C.D. Cal. 2016)

Apple – lock screen bypass, investigation by the FBI: In re Order Requiring Apple, Inc. to Assist in the Execution of a Search Warrant Issued by this Court, No. 3:14-mj-01245-WVG (S.D. Cal. 2014)

Apple – lock screen bypass, investigation by DHS: In re Order Requiring Apple, Inc. to Assist in the Execution of a Search Warrant Issued by this Court, No. 3:13-mj-04593-MDD (S.D. Cal. 2013)

Apple – assistance type unspecified: In re Order Requiring Apple, Inc. to Assist in the Execution of a Search Warrant, No. 2:13-cm-00342-UA (C.D. Cal. 2013)

Apple – assistance type unspecified: USA v. One Apple iPhone 4S Model A1387 White in Color, No. 2:14-mj-00159-DUTY (C.D. Cal. 2014)

Google – password reset, investigation by the FBI: In re: Search Warrant for: A) One Alcaltel Cellular Telephone; (B) One Kyocera Cellular Telephone; AND (C) One Garmin GPS Device, No. 1-15-sw-00073-SKO (2015)

Google – password reset, investigation by DHS-HSI: In re Order Requiring Google, Inc. to Assist in the Execution of a Search Warrant Issued by this Court, No. 2:15-sw-00602-CKD (E.D. Cal. 2015)

Apple – assistance type unspecified for 3 iPhones: Docket number unknown (N.D. Cal 2015)

Apple – assistance type unspecified: Docket number unknown (S.D. Cal. 2016)

Apple – lock screen bypass, investigation by ATF: Order Requiring Apple, Inc. to Assist in the Execution of a Federal Search Warrant, No. 3:11-mj-01771-WMC (S.D. Cal. 2011)

Apple – lock screen bypass, investigation by ATF: In re Search of: One iPhone Cellular Telephone Serial No. 86949MYL3NP IMEI No. 012029001497234 SIM Card No. GA6026850 Black in Color, No. 2:11-mj-08542-PCL (S.D. Cal. 2011)

 

·       Florida

5 All Writs Act cases

Apple – lock screen bypass, investigation by the DEA: United States v. Zaragoza, 1:12-cr-20119-UU (S.D. Fla. 2012)

Apple – assistance type unspecified: United States v. Execution of a Search Warrant, 9:13-mj-08153-JMH (S.D. Fla. 2013)

Apple – assistance type unspecified: In re Application/Order for Assistance, No. 2:12-mj-00144-FJL (S.D. Fla. 2012)

Apple – data extraction: United States v. Titus Lamar Bellot, No. 2:14-cr-00048-JES-MRM (M.D. Fla. 2015)

Apple – provide password: United States v. Blake, No. 9:13-mj-08082-DLB (S.D. Fl. 2014)

 

·       Georgia

1 All Writs Act case

Apple – lock screen bypass, investigation by the FBI: United States v. Borgella, No. 4:12-mj-00076-GRS (S.D. Ga. 2012)

 

·       Illinois

5 All Writs Act cases

Apple – assistance type unspecified: United States of America v. The Apple iPhone 5S Model A1530 cellular telephone, No. 1:15-mc-00604 (N.D. Ill. 2015)

Apple – assistance type unspecified: Docket number unknown (N.D. Ill. 2015)

Apple – assistance type unspecified: Docket number unknown (N.D. Ill. 2015)

Apple – assistance type unspecified: Docket number unknown (N.D. Ill. 2016)

Apple – assistance type unspecified: Docket number unknown (N.D. Ill. 2016)

 

·       Louisiana

1 All Writs Act case

Apple – lock screen bypass, investigation by the FBI: In re Order Requiring Apple, Inc. to Assist in the Execution of a Search Warrant Issued by this Court, No. 2:14-mc-506-DM (E.D. La. 2014)

·       Massachusetts

o   Massachusetts

2 All Writs Act cases

Apple – lock screen bypass and data extraction, investigation by the FBI: In re Search of AT&T ‘flip-style’ cellular telephone, bearing serial number 3284510815A5, seized from Desmond Crawford on November 25, 2015, No. 1:16-mj-02006-MBB (D. Mass. 2015) (suspected)

Apple – assistance type unspecified: Docket number unknown (D. Mass. 2016)

 

·       Maryland

2 All Writs Act cases

Apple – lock screen bypass, investigation by Air Force Office of Special Investigations: In re Order Requiring Apple, Inc. to Assist in the Execution of a Search Warrant Issued by this Court, No. 8:14-mj-1760-WGC (D. Md. 2014)

Apple – unlock and retrieve data from 2 phones: In re Order Directing Apple, Inc. to Assist in the Execution of a Search Warrant, No. 1:14-mj-00118-SAG (D. Md. 2014)

 

·       Maine

1 All Writs Act case

Apple – lock screen bypass, investigation by DHS: In re Order Requiring Apple, Inc. to Assist in the Execution of a Search Warrant Issued by this Court, No. 2:13-mj-00195-GZS (D. Me. 2013)

 

·       Minnesota

3 All Writs Act cases

Apple – lock screen bypass, investigation by ATF: In re Order Requiring Apple, Inc. to Assist in the Execution of a Search Warrant Issued by this Court, No. 0:15-mj-00004-TNL (D. Minn. 2015)

Apple – assistance type unspecified: United States v. Search Warrant, 0:14-mj-00302-SER (D. Minn. 2014)

Apple – assistance type unspecified: In re Order Requiring Apple, Inc. To Assist in the Execution of a Search Warrant Issued by this Court, No. 0:13-cr-00273-SRN-JJK (D. Minn 2013)

 

·       North Carolina

2 All Writs Act cases

Google – password reset, investigation by the Secret Service: In re: Order Requiring Google, Inc. to Assist in the Execution of a Search Warrant Issued by this Court, No. 5:13-mj-1904-JG (E.D.N.C. 2013)

Apple – lock screen bypass, investigation by the Secret Service: In re: Order Requiring Apple, Inc. to Assist in the Execution of a Search Warrant Issued by this Court, No. 5:13-mj-1904-JG (E.D.N.C. 2013)

Apple – lock screen bypass, investigation by the Secret Service: In re Search of One Apple iPhone, No. 1:13-mj-172-LPA (M.D.N.C. 2014)

 

·       North Dakota

3 All Writs Act cases

Apple – lock screen bypass, investigation by the FBI: In re Order Requiring Apple, Inc. to Assist in the Execution of a Search Warrant Issued by this Court, No. 4:14-mj-00198-CSM (D.N.D. 2015)

Apple – data extraction, investigation by the FBI: In re Order Requiring Apple, Inc. to Assist in the Execution of a Search Warrant Issued by this Court, No. 4:13-mj-00165-CSM (D.N.D. 2014)

Google – password reset, investigation by DHS-HSI: In re Order Requiring Google, Inc. to Assist in the Execution of a Search Warrant Issued by this Court, No. 3:12-mj-00132-KKK (D.N.D. 2013)

 

·       New Hampshire

1 All Writs Act case

Apple – lock screen bypass, investigation by the FBI: In re Search of White Samsung T-Mobile Cellphone et al., No. 1:10-mj-00054 (D.N.H. 2010)

 

·       New Mexico

2 All Writs Act cases

Apple – lock screen bypass, investigation by the DEA: In re Order Requiring Apple, Inc. to Assist in the Execution of A Search Warrant for an Apple I-Phone, Serial Number C8PHGFQ1DTFC, Model A1387, FCC ID: BCG-E2430A, IC: 579C-E2430A, Issued by this Court, No. 1:13-mr-01026-KBM (D.N.M. 2013)

Google – password reset, investigation by the FBI: In Re Order Requiring Google, Inc. to Assist in the Execution of a Search Warrant Issued by this Court, No. 1:13-mr-00115-ACT (D.N.M. 2013)

 

·       Nevada

1 All Writs Act case

Apple – unlock and extract data from 4 devices, investigation by the FBI: United States v. Wei Seng Phua, No. 2:14-mj-00249-APG-PAL (D. Nev 2015)

 

·       New York

12 All Writs Act cases

Apple – lock screen bypass: In re Order Requiring [XXX], Inc. to Assist in the Execution of a Search Warrant Issued by this Court by Unlocking a Cellphone, 2014 WL 5510865 (S.D.N.Y. 2014)

Apple – lock screen bypass, investigation by the FBI: In re Order Requiring Apple, Inc. to Assist in the Execution of a Search Warrant Issued by this Court, No. 1:14-mc-00288-CLP (E.D.N.Y. 2014)

Apple – lock screen bypass, investigation by the DEA: In re Order Requiring Apple, Inc. to Assist in the Execution of a Search Warrant Issued by this Court, No. 1:15-mc-01902-JO (E.D.N.Y. 2015)

Apple – lock screen bypass, investigation by the Secret Service: United States v. Jansen, No. 5:08-cr-00753-DNH (N.D.N.Y. 2008)

Apple – lock screen bypass investigation by Secret Service: In re Order Requiring Apple, Inc. to Assist in the Execution of a Search Warrant Issued by this Court, No. 5:12-cr-00453-GTW (N.D.N.Y. 2012)

Apple – lock screen bypass, investigation by the DEA: In re Order Requiring Apple, Inc. to Assist in the Execution of a Search Warrant Issued by this Court, No. 2:13-mc-00214-WDW (E.D.N.Y. 2014)

Apple – lock screen bypass, investigation by DHS-HSI: In re Order Requiring Apple, Inc. to Assist in the Execution of a Search Warrant Issued by this Court, No. 1:12-mj-1083-CLP (E.D.N.Y. 2012)

Apple – lock screen bypass, investigation by the FBI: In re Order Requiring Apple, Inc. to Assist in the Execution of a Search Warrant Issued by this Court, No. 1:11-mj-01276-SMG (E.D.N.Y. 2012)

Apple – lock screen bypass, investigation by the DEA:United States v. Camacho, No. 1:13-cr-00058-KBF (N.D.N.Y. 2013)

Apple – assistance type unspecified for 2 iPhones: Docket number unknown (E.D.N.Y. 2015)

Apple – assistance type unspecified: Docket number unknown (S.D.N.Y. 2015)

Apple – assistance type unspecified: Docket number unknown (S.D.N.Y. 2015)

 

·       Ohio

4 All Writs Act cases

Apple – lock screen bypass, investigation by the FBI: In re Order Requiring Apple, Inc. to Assist in the Execution of a Search Warrant Issued by this Court, No. 1:13-mj-3163-GW (N.D. Ohio 2013)

Apple – lock screen bypass, investigation by DHS: In re Order Requiring Apple, Inc. to Assist in the Execution of a Search Warrant Issued by this Court, No. 1:14-mj-04136-NAV (N.D. Ohio 2014)

Apple – assistance type unspecified: Docket number unknown (S.D. Ohio 2015)

Apple – assistance type unspecified: Docket number unknown (S.D. Ohio 2015)

 

·       Oregon

1 All Writs Act case

Google – assistance type unspecified, investigation by the BLM: Search Warrant, No. 1-12-mc-00305 (Or. 2012)

 

·       Pennsylvania

6 All Writs Act cases

Apple – assistance type unspecified: United States v. 2 Cellular Telephones, No. 2:13-mj-01129 (E.D. Pa. 2013)

Apple – assistance type unspecified: United States v. A White Apple iPhone with Black Rubber Case, et al., No. 2:13-mj-01360 (E.D. Pa. 2013)

Apple – assistance type unspecified: United States v. iPhone 4s Serial Number C39HC0F5DTD8L, No. 2:14-mj-00591 (E.D. Pa. 2014)

Apple – assistance type unspecified: United States v. One Black and Silver T-Mobile Cellular Telephone with Serial Number P7U2B913A110222 (Including Any Possible Smart/Storage Cards) et al., No. 2:14-mj-00612 (E.D. Pa. 2014)

Apple – assistance type unspecified: United States vs. One (1) Black T-Movile LG Cell Phone, Serial Number 306KPCA155107 et al, No. 2:14-mj-00598 (E.D. Pa. 2014)

Apple – data extraction, investigation by ATF: In re Order Requiring Apple, Inc. to Assist in the Execution of a Search Warrant Issued by this Court, No.2:15-mj-01362 (E.D. Pa. 2015)

 

·       South Dakota

2 All Writs Act cases

Google – password reset, investigation by DHS-ICE: In re Order Requiring Google, Inc. to Assist in the Execution of a Search Warrant Issued by this Court, No. 4:14-mc-00097-JES (D.S.D. 2014)

Apple – lock screen bypass, investigation by DHS: In re Order Requiring Apple, Inc. to Assist in the Execution of a Search Warrant Issued by this Court, No. 4:15-mj-00036-VLD (D.S.D. 2015)

 

·       Washington

2 All Writs Act cases

Apple – lock screen bypass, investigation by the FBI: United States v. Navarro, No. 3:13-cr-05525-BHS (W.D. Wash 2013)

Apple – lock screen bypass, investigation by the Secret Service: In re Order Requring Apple, Inc. to Assist in the Execution of a Search Warrant Issued by this Court, No. 2:14-mj-00319 (W.D. Wa. 2014)

About the author

avatar

Jennifer Cowan

Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.