Maricopa County Attorney’s Office to discontinue providing Apple iPhones to employees

Effective immediately, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office will discontinue providing iPhones as an option for replacements or upgrades for existing employees.  Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery announced the decision Feb. 24, first communicated to applicable staff on Sunday, Feb. 21, citing Apple’s recent refusal to cooperate in unlocking an encrypted iPhone used by individuals involved in the recent San Bernardino shootings, according to a press release.

“Apple’s refusal to cooperate with a legitimate law enforcement investigation to unlock a phone used by terrorists puts Apple on the side of terrorists instead of on the side of public safety,” Mr. Montgomery said in a press release.  “Positioning their refusal to cooperate as having anything to do with privacy interests is a corporate PR stunt and ignores the 4th Amendment protections afforded by our Constitution.”

Prosecutors have routinely sought and obtained valid search warrants to unlock encrypted smartphones, including iPhones.  The evidence obtained in these searches has proven critical to the investigation and prosecution of defendants charged with drug trafficking, sexual exploitation, murder and other serious offenses.  Mr. Montgomery characterized the current impasse as deliberate indifference on the part of Apple, according to the release.

“If the potential for unauthorized access to an encryption key is truly motivating Apple’s unwillingness to assist in downloading information from specific iPhones, then let’s define the problem in those terms and work on that concern.  Otherwise, Apple is proving indifferent to the need for evidence to hold people accountable who have harmed or intend to harm fellow citizens,” Mr. Montgomery said in the release.

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office serves the fourth-most populous county in the U.S. with more than four million residents within its jurisdiction.  There are 564 smartphones deployed throughout the office, 366 of which are iPhones, according to the release.

“I don’t expect my action to affect Apple’s stock price,” Mr. Montgomery said in the release.  “But I cannot in good conscience support doing business with an organization that chooses to thwart an active investigation into a terrorist attack that claimed the lives of fourteen fellow citizens.  If Apple wants to be the official smartphone of terrorists and criminals, there will be a consequence.”

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