In an investigation involving guns and drugs, the U.S. Justice Department obtained a court order this summer demanding that Apple turn over, in real time, text messages between suspects using iPhones. Apple responded that its iMessage system was encrypted and it could not comply, the New York Times reports. Government officials had warned that this type of standoff was inevitable as technology companies like Apple and Google embraced tougher encryption. The case, coming after others in which similar requests were rebuffed, prompted some senior DOJ officials to advocate taking Apple to court. While that prospect has been shelved for now, a Justice Department dispute with Microsoft goes before a federal appeals court in New York tomorrow in which DOJ wants the company to comply with a warrant for emails from a drug trafficking suspect.
Microsoft said federal officials would have to get an order from an Irish court, because the emails were stored on servers in Dublin. The conflicts with Apple and Microsoft show heightened corporate resistance in the post-Edward Snowden era by technology companies intent on demonstrating that they are trying to protect customer information. Some Justice officials are frustrated that the White House has not moved more quickly or been more outspoken in the public relations fight that the tech companies appear to be winning.