A federal magistrate-judge in New York City has ruled that the U.S. government can’t force Apple to hack an iPhone to investigate a drug dealer. It’s a win for Apple, which is being pressured by federal law enforcement agents to help it break into iPhones in at least 13 instances across the country. Apple says doing the federal government’s bidding would undermine the security features in hundreds of millions of iPhones around the world. So far, the Department of Justice is relying on the All Writs Act, passed in 1789, which basically says that judges can tell all people to follow the law. But on Monday, Judge James Orenstein said federal investigators can’t use that law to pull this off. The U.S. government’s argument doesn’t justify “imposing on Apple the obligation to assist the government’s investigation against its will,” the judge wrote.

[T]he question to be answered in this matter, and in others like it across the country, is not whether the government should be able to force Apple to help it unlock a specific device,” Orenstein wrote. “[I]t is instead whether the All Writs Act resolves that issue and many others like it yet to come. … I conclude that it does not.

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