Google also ordered to help government unlock phones

While much of the phone encryption debate has centered on Apple's fight with the FBI to unlock an iPhone used by a gunman, the federal government has also ordered Google to unlock cell phones, reports The Wall Street Journal.

In at least seven states since 2008, the government has asked for Google's assistance in accessing data on locked phones, according to a report from the American Civil Liberties Union. In these cases, the government invoked the All Writs Act to order the companies to help — the same act the government cited in its latest scuffle with Apple. The All Writs Act authorizes the federal government to require a party to aid in an investigation or other legal act.

The WSJ reports the outcomes of these cases are not clear.

A Google spokesperson told WSJ the company does receive subpoenas, but has never been mandated to unlock a phone in the way Apple would have had to do so in the case with the San Bernardino gunman.

"We carefully scrutinize subpoenas and court orders to make sure they meet both the letter and spirit of the law," the spokesperson told WSJ. "However, we've never received an All Writs Act order like the one Apple recently fought that demands we build new tools that actively compromise our products' security…We would strongly object to such an order."

Google is currently involved in one case that includes a drug investigation from 2015 in which an Alcatel and Kyocera cell phone were using Google's Android operating system, according to the report.

More articles on Google:

A dozen people have left Google's Verily in a year — here's why 
Google researchers learn from Harvard Medical School in new executive education program 
Dr. Google invents the future of healthcare 

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