Google ordered to unlock phones
Google faces All Writs Act orders to help federal agents help unlock phones Getty Images

Apple wasn't the only one that was ordered to unlock its phones. According to court records, Google has been ordered to help federal authorities unlock mobiles.

On a total of 63 occasions, both Google and Apple received court orders under a 1789 law, called the All Writs Act, to help the government access the data in a locked mobile device, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The act allows federal courts the authority to issue binding orders.

A Google spokesperson, in response to the ACLU finding on the All Writs Act, told the Wall Street Journal: "We carefully scrutinise subpoenas and court orders to make sure they meet both the letter and spirit of the law. 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."

The disclosure comes within a few hours after the federal authorities announced that they had withdrawn an encryption case against Apple after successfully unlocking the iPhone of one of the terrorists of the San Bernardino attack. Apple, claiming victory in the court battle against the FBI, said "this case should have never been brought".

Although, the Justice Department has always defended the practice of seeking assistance from tech companies as a matter of routine, privacy groups have raised concern that the government is misusing the law.

According to court records, in a 2015 drug investigation in California, Google was ordered to assist the prosecutors in accessing data from the Android-powered Alcatel phone and Kyocera phones.

The ACLU found Google was the subject of All Writs Act cases in Alabama, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon and South Dakota. Some of the orders seek Google's assistance in the investigation process. Again, in a 2015 child pornography investigation in Sacramento, California, Google was ordered to reset the password of a Samsung handset.

Not only the FBI, Google cases also involve investigations by the Secret Services, Homeland Security Department, Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Land Management.