This Map Shows How the Apple-FBI Fight Was About Much More Than One Phone

All Writs Act Orders for Assistance From Tech Companies

Update: 4/1/2016:  The ACLU of Massachusetts has filed a motion seeking to unseal the docket for the suspected All Writs Act case in that state, arguing that the public should have access to case information to inform the debate on whether law enforcement can conscript technology companies to undermine device security.

The government insisted that its effort to force Apple to help break into an iPhone as part of the investigation into the 2015 San Bernardino shootings was just about that one case. Even though the FBI no longer needs Apple’s help in that case, the FBI’s request was part of a sustained government effort to exercise novel law enforcement power.

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At the heart of the legal battle is the All Writs Act, originally passed in 1789, which gives courts the authority to issue orders necessary to enforce other lawful orders or decisions. We’ve found that the government has been using the law to force tech companies to help unlock their customers’ devices in dozens of cases since 2008. We’ve gathered all of those cases together on an interactive map we published today.

After the Justice Department revealed in a case in Brooklyn that it had already secured approximately 70 such orders, the ACLU and the ACLU of Massachusetts went digging for them. We uncovered 63 confirmed cases in which the government applied for an order under the All Writs Act to compel Apple or Google to provide assistance in accessing data stored on a mobile device. To the extent we know about the underlying facts, these cases predominantly arise out of investigations into drug crimes.

The map identifies where and when these cases have arisen, their docket numbers, and which federal agency conducted the investigation. Public court documents associated with the cases can be found here. The ACLU expects to learn about additional All Writs Act cases in response to our FOIA requests — filed jointly with the Stanford Center for Internet and Society — and we will update this map as more information becomes available.

There are even more cases out there. In addition to the 63 confirmed cases, we know of up to 13 additional cases, which are reflected on the map. Apple has identified 12 pending cases (though their 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 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. Turns out, these kinds of orders have actually become quite ordinary.

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Bruce Walters

Facebook is blocking people for weeks, even months for saying what they deem as "inappropriate". Isn't this censorship? They allow people to slam whites,calling for minorities to actively seek, stalk, and murder whites and all law enforcement. That doesn't get blocked or booted, but a comment about TG's who demand to use their gender identity bathrooms probably getting hurt or beaten gets blocked for 30 days? What happened to freedom of speech? That only applies to minorities?


Facebook is guilty of violating the 1st amendment with their censorship of posts.


You agreed to let them do it via the EULA you agreed to to use the service.


Now that we've been told that the FBI subverted the phone in questions without the help of Apple, it raises an interesting legal question to me. Did the FBI violate the DMCA by circumventing the encryption to access the materials (assuming there was copyrighted materials) present? I know if I were to circumvent the encryption on a DVD, I would be guilty of it, whether or not the DVD belonged to a 'terrorist'.

I'm just curious - Even though they would likely have immunity.


The Privacy Protection Act does not bar the search of journalists. It bars searching for documentary and work product material held by the journalist with a purpose to disseminate to the public. However, the PPA makes it clear that documentary material "does not include contraband or the fruits of a crime." Just as a house is generally protected from a search unless the police can show probable cause, the PPA adds a protection for documentary material provided that it is not either contraband or the fruits of a crime. So if a journlist steals a company's trade secrets and plans to write about them in a public forum, the law permits the seizure of those records. They are the fruits of the crime.
Similary doctors' records can be searched if they are evidence of the crime under investigation. In a Medicaid fraud case for false billing, the doctor's office could be searched and the medical records could be seized and searched under a warrant.
That leaves the diplomatic pouch. The class people who carry them is minuscule and, by definition, they are neither U.S. citizens nor permanent residents lawfully in the U.S.


A "National Quit Work for a Day" . Bring EveryThing to a Halt for a day . Wake up Call is whats Needed . Do not go along with the Creepy Data Freaks.


Get a "Signal Blocking Cell Phone Case " . When ever you see a black n white rollin , everybody all a once use it . Don't along , don't play the "Creeps" game.


Just anounced method for unlocking newer iPhone's won't work . Why not get 3 keys with 3 different depts all accountable to each other with over site from president . If any found to blow it somehow they get fired immediately.


Everyone starting to have big problem with big data . ALPR' s are big issue and it not just scanning your car plate. Attached to your plate is you and what you do . The possibly of incorrect info stored that you don't know about and can't challenge like a credit report maybe in some computer . This is UnAmerican in it's simplest explanation .


Creepy Data at its Worst.


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