Prosecutors are successfully accessing data from more than 100 locked phones seized during arrests on Inauguration Day, according to court papers filed yesterday. The phones belonged to those accused of rioting in Washington DC.

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The government is in the process of extracting data from the Rioter Cell Phones pursuant to lawfully issued search warrants, and expects to be in a position to produce all of the data from the searched Rioter Cell Phones in the next several weeks. (All of the Rioter Cell Phones were locked, which requires more time-sensitive efforts to try to obtain the data.)

The filing is, however, vague in two respects. Although one reading of it could be taken to mean that it is able to access every phone seized – which would statistically include a high proportion of iPhones – an alternative interpretation would be that it refers only to phones already ‘searched.’ It’s notable that there were approximately 230 arrests while the court order specifies phones from ‘more than 100’ defendants.

Second, while the wording implies extracting data from the devices themselves, it is possible that the language used could also cover serving warrants on Apple to release iCloud backups, which is an established way for authorities to access data stored on iPhones.

Buzzfeed notes that a number of motions have been filed by defendants, including motions to dismiss based on lack of evidence tying individuals to specific acts of rioting.

Photo: ABC News