(CBS News) – While Apple has pushed back against the FBI by refusing to create a “backdoor” that could allow investigators to unlock the iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino terrorists, a 2015 court case reveals that the company has unlocked phones for the federal government “many times” in the past.
Between 2008 and 2015, Apple repeatedly complied with government requests to retrieve data from locked phones, federal prosecutors in New York argued recently while requesting a court order to access data on the iPhone of a suspect in a drug case.
The case involves a suspect named Jun Feng who is charged with possession and distribution of methamphetamine. Feng’s iPhone 5s was seized under a search warrant, but investigators have not been able to unlock it.
“The government is not aware of any prior instance in which Apple objected to such an order,” U.S. Attorney Robert L. Capers stated in court documents. “Indeed, Apple has repeatedly assisted law enforcement officers in federal criminal cases by extracting data from passcode-locked iPhones pursuant to court orders.”
At a hearing on the case in Brooklyn on Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Saritha Komatireddy said Apple has complied with the government in “at least” 70 similar cases, Vice’s Motherboard reports.
However, the San Bernardino case is different in a significant way. The phones involved in the previous cases cited by prosecutors were running earlier versions of the iOS operating system that didn’t have the same level of encryption — technology that was put in place specifically to keep user data private.
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