The federal government didn't need Apple's help after all, formally dropping its bid to legally force the tech giant to unlock information on the iPhone of one of the suspects in the San Bernardino, California, attacks.
"The government has now successfully accessed the data stored on [Syed] Farook’s iPhone and therefore no longer requires the assistance from Apple Inc. mandated by Court’s Order Compelling Apple Inc. to Assist Agents in Search dated February 16, 2016," the Department of Justice said in a court filing Monday.
The DOJ didn't say how it obtained the information, which it previously said it had no way of accessing without Apple's help. But the department hasn't conceded the central issue that companies should release users' private, encrypted data when necessary: According to reporting from Politico, the DOJ has not ruled out future lawsuits in other cases where tech companies refuse to help unlock encrypted information.
Apple framed this as a victory, maintaining that the issue should never have reached the court:
From the beginning, we objected to the FBI's demand that Apple build a backdoor into the iPhone because we believed it was wrong and would set a dangerous precedent. As a result of the government's dismissal, neither of these occurred. This case should never have been brought.
We will continue to help law enforcement with their investigations, as we have done all along, and we will continue to increase the security of our products as the threats and attacks on our data become more frequent and more sophisticated.
Apple believes deeply that people in the United States and around the world deserve data protection, security and privacy. Sacrificing one for the other only puts people and countries at greater risk.
This case raised issues which deserve a national conversation about our civil liberties, and our collective security and privacy. Apple remains committed to participating in that discussion.
DOJ spokesperson Melanie Newman confirmed that the information from Farook's iPhone is with the FBI, but did not indicated whether it has proved useful in the investigation, Politico reported.