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Federal Bureau of Investigation director admits mistake in Apple encryption row

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Orenstein came to this decision after weighing Apple's closeness between the underlying criminal case and government investigation, the burden the requested order would place on the company, and the "necessity of imposing such a burden on Apple", said the 50-page ruling.

V3 contacted Apple for comment on the outcome but had received no reply at the time of publication. "The only way we know to protect that data is through strong encryption".

A schism has emerged among family members of victims and survivors of the San Bernardino, California terrorist attack, with at least a couple supporting Apple Inc.in its battle against a federal court order to help the FBI hack into a shooter's locked iPhone. The couple died later in a gun battle with police.

Apple has argued that if San Bernardino County officials had not reset the cloud storage account connected to that phone, the Federal Bureau of Investigation might have been able to access much more of the data on the phone by connecting the device to the Wi-Fi system in Mr. Farook's apartment.

Last month, Apple executives said that if the password hadn't been been changed, a backup of the phone would have been accessible.

"We are seeing more and more cases where we believe significant evidence resides on a phone, a tablet or a laptop - evidence that may be the difference between an offender being convicted or acquired", Comey said in prepared remarks.

The US Justice Department had requested that Apple unlock a phone as part of a drug case, but Judge Orenstein in Brooklyn denied the motion.

However, Orenstein argued that the act could not be applied in this case and that Apple was exempt through a 1994 law on wiretapping. But Apple and its supporters are likely to cite CALEA in the San Bernardino case, said Alex Abdo, an ACLU attorney who is helping draft a "friend-of-the-court" brief on Apple's behalf.

Alex Abdo, a staff lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union's speech, privacy and technology project, said the debate is "ultimately about whether we trust our devices". "Companies will be required to spy on, rather than secure, their customers". Comey said the government has tried hard to break into iPhones, like the one in California, but he seemed unaware if those methods were successful.

Congress has resisted attempts over the years to extend that authority to tech companies like Apple, according to experts who have studied the law, known as the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, or CALEA.

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