According to a new report from Reuters, Apple informed a federal magistrate judge in Brooklyn, New York that it “would be impossible” for the company to access data on a locked iPhone running iOS 8 or later.
Apple was responding to a request to a request from the judge, James Orenstein, to help him decide whether to fulfill a U.S. Justice Department request that would have forced Apple to help authorities gain access to a seized iPhone. However, Apple’s response is not a surprise, as it is the same thing the company has said several times in the past.
Since iOS 8, Apple has stopped storing encryption keys for devices, making it impossible for the company to unlock iPhones and iPads under police request. Without an encryption key, Apple cannot bypass a passcode to gain access to an iOS device.
“Forcing Apple to extract data in this case, absent clear legal authority to do so, could threaten the trust between Apple and its customers and substantially tarnish the Apple brand,” Apple’s lawyers wrote.
In a brief filed with the court, Apple said 90 percent of its devices are running iOS 8 or higher and are thus inaccessible. Apple is able to access the 10 percent of devices that continue to use iOS 7 or below, but the company told the judge that being forced to comply with the Justice Department’s request could tarnish its brand.
Law enforcement officials have not taken well to Apple’s encryption changes. FBI Director James Comey has expressed concern that encryption implemented by companies like Google and Apple lets people “place themselves above the law.”