The United States Department of Justice has withdrawn its court order against Apple after the FBI successfully cracked a disputed iPhone 5c handset without Cupertino’s help.
The news follows an FBI-led postponement of a planned court showdown between the two sides after a third-party came forward with a way to bypass the pass code following Apple's well-documented refusal.
Following investigation into whether using the method could potentially destroy the data left on the phone by San Bernardino killer Syed Rizwan Farook, investigators have now been able to break in successfully.
As such, the DoJ is withdrawing the court order filed against Apple under the 226-year old All Writs Act, which the government insisted compelled the firm to assist with the investigation.
The filing, from US attorney Eleen M Decker and assistant US attorney Tracy L Wilkison, reads: “The government has now successfully accessed the data stored on Farook’s iPhone and therefore no longer requires the assistance from Apple Inc. mandated by Court’s Order Compelling Apple Inc. to Assist Agents in Search dated February 16, 2016.”
The announcement, at least for now, brings to a close the most compelling and dramatic tech story of 2016 in somewhat anti-climatic style.
Whether this puts the matter to bed, or whether political pressure will increase on Apple and other tech giants to loosen the encryption of data remains to be seen.
A spokesperson for the DoJ said the government would continue to look for ways to enable investigators to obtain "crucial" information and that it would seek cooperation from tech firms.
Melanie Newman said (via The Guardian): “It remains a priority for the government to ensure that law enforcement can obtain crucial digital information to protect national security and public safety, either with cooperation from relevant parties, or through the court system when cooperation fails.
“We will continue to pursue all available options for this mission, including seeking the cooperation of manufacturers and relying upon the creativity of both the public and private sectors.”
We expect a statement from Apple to be forthcoming and have contacted the firm for comment.