Apple is putting law enforcement requests on hold, according to one judge. The company has created a waiting list for all the “unlock this device” requests it receives.
After repeat attempts to unlock a suspected drug dealer’s iPhone 4S, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) reached out to Apple for help, as reported by CNET. Apple complies with law enforcement requests, like most big tech companies, to unlock devices or supply data. But, according to Judge Karen Caldwell handling the case, the ATF was told it would have to be placed on a waiting list along with all the other requests Apple receives.
The agent involved explained in an affidavit that it would be up to seven weeks before the request was fulfilled meaning Apple has its hands full with law enforcement aid. But it makes sense as smartphone data can be a pivotal part of the discovery process in a law suit.
Text messages, Facebook messages, emails, pictures, location-data and more would be available to anyone who had the unlocked phone. In the case of a drug dealer, law enforcement would of course want to look for any messages about transactions, or anything that could lead to further arrests in a drug ring.
Of course, this becomes a sticky matter when it comes to whether warrants are involved or not. It could then be considered an unreasonable search and seizure.
This might be a testament to how secure iPhones seem to be. This might also be a testament to how law enforcement might want to invest in more technical resources.