Apple recently declined to turn over iMessages to the Justice Department as part of a criminal investigation involving drugs and guns, according to the New York Times. The company told the Justice Department, which obtained a court order earlier this summer, that iMessages are encrypted in a way that prohibits the company or other third parties from reading them.
The refusal comes as the Justice Department is facing off against technology companies that want to protect users' privacy in the post-Snowden era, fearful that consumers will abandon their products if they're seen as too cozy with the American government. The DOJ is also waging a court battle with Microsoft over a similar issue, arguing that customer emails desired by the Department are stored overseas outside U.S. law enforcement's jurisdiction.
Tech companies like Apple and Microsoft argue that providing police with a back door into customers' encrypted data would give other countries the ability to access its information as well. “Clearly, if the U.S. government wins, the door is open for other governments to reach into data centers in the U.S.,” Microsoft’s general counsel Brad Smith told the Times.