That big Apple-FBI showdown has been postponed

Slow clap.
Slow clap.
Image: Reuters/Robert Galbraith
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The United States government has been granted a delay in a court hearing scheduled for tomorrow (Mar. 22) around Apple’s refusal to comply with an order to bypass security mechanisms on an iPhone.

The government’s filing to the court requesting the postponement says it was on Mar. 20 shown by an “outside party” a new way to possibly unlock the iPhone, which belonged to an assailant in the San Bernardino, California, shootings named Syed Farook.

“An outside party demonstrated to the FBI a possible method for unlocking Farook’s iPhone. Testing is required to determine whether it is a viable method that will not compromise data on Farook’s iPhone,” the government’s filing reads.

The government asked to file a “status report” to the court by April 5 instead of holding the hearing tomorrow. If the new method works, the government said it would “eliminate the need” for help from Apple, which is being ordered to do so under the All Writs Act. Apple says the law is being misused and would set a “dangerous precedent.

The government said its continued research into unlocking the phone, and “worldwide publicity and attention” to the case, resulted in it being presented with “avenues of possible research” by parties outside the US government.

The filing said the government contacted Apple’s lawyer at 2:45pm PT today. Apple then contacted the court requesting a conference, the filing said. The court granted the request hours later, Reuters and Politico reported.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook today opened a product launch event with a bold statement about his company’s stance in user privacy. “We need to decide as a nation how much power the government should have over our data and over our privacy,” he said.