Late Monday, Apple filed a brief with a federal magistrate judge in Brooklyn, New York, reiterating its inability to unlock its devices. As it has before, the company told the judge that accessing data stored on a locked device running iOS 8 or later is technically impossible, due to strengthened encryption methods.
“In most cases now and in the future, the government’s requested order would be substantially burdensome, as it would be impossible to perform. For devices running iOS 8 or higher, Apple would not have the technical ability to do what the government requests—take possession of a password protected device from the government and extract unencrypted user data from that device for the government. Among the security features in iOS 8 is a feature that prevents anyone without the device’s passcode from accessing the device’s encrypted data. This includes Apple.”
Judge James Orenstein’s inquiry is the result of a request from the U.S. Justice Department to force Apple to help authorities access a seized iPhone. Earlier this month, Orenstein expressed skepticism about whether he could demand such an act from the company, citing Congress’ failure to act on the issue of encryption.
A hearing is expected Friday.
Apple has substantially beefed up its efforts on user security within the last few years, amidst scandals like the NSA PRISM program and celebrity photo leak. During a speech at a Champions of Freedom event earlier this year, Apple CEO Tim Cook said “we believe the customer should be in control of their own information.”