The FBI is struggling to win over Apple and Google, now using an 18th century law to beat the tech companies in court and force them to unlock devices. Apple and Google both added encryption to their smartphones, to protect users from surveillance and theft. The smartphones cannot be opened by anyone other than the owner and even the companies do not know how to open the devices.

According to the FBI, this allows terrorists and criminals to use the devices, since there is no way for the FBI or any other agency to use the information on the smartphone in court. The new act the FBI is using, called the “All Writs Act”, was originally written by George Washington in the 18th century, essentially forcing companies to encrypt data on devices.


The rule was rewritten to fit the 21st century context a few years ago and the FBI is capable of using it in court, when there is no hope but the smartphone. It was used in California and New York to win over the judge and force the companies to unlock the phone. However, Google and Apple are continuing their encryption methods, which are currently not banned in the U.S.

The FBI has tried other ways to stop Apple and Google, including the Director James B. Comey trying to get a law passed in Congress. The three major Congress speakers all claimed the FBI had their chance with smartphone owners, and lost it with the recent surveillance scare.

Google has said they will continue to encrypt devices and Apple has not showed any slowing down either. The two tech companies want to lead by example, hoping that various app developers encrypt their apps in future.