A federal judge in New York ruled for Apple against the U.S. Department of Justice about whether the company can be forced to help investigators extract data from a locked phone in a drug investigation, according to a news report. The ruling could affect a similar case involving a phone that belonged to a deceased terrorism suspect in San Bernardino, California. The ruling came a day before the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Apple’s top lawyer are due to testify before Congress. The New York judge rejected the Justice Department’s argument that the All Writs Act gives prosecutors the authority to compel Apple to help investigators bypass the passcode-protection system on an iPhone.
Last week we wrote here that whether or not Apple prevails in U.S. federal court against the FBI, possible future demands of governments in the rest of the world for access to phones could end up affecting Apple more. Still, the New York ruling is an undeniable victory for Apple, creating a degree of presumption that could influence other judges and ultimately Congress. If Apple ultimately succeeds in keeping the iPhone’s encryption sacrosanct in the U.S., its reputation with many consumers will be strengthened, and the momentum thus generated could help it in other markets, at least among the Western democracies.