The Department of Justice announced last night that it had successfully unlocked the iPhone of a suspected meth dealer in Brooklyn and that it would no longer require Apple's cooperation in gaining access to the phone. This comes less than a month after the feds accessed the data on San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook's iPhone without help from Apple, which has argued in favor of the need for encryption and said that complying with the government's demands in these cases would set a dangerous precedent for government surveillance.

In a letter to a federal judge in the Eastern District of New York, a U.S. attorney said that on Thursday night, someone provided the passcode to the iPhone of Jun Feng, the suspected drug dealer at the heart of the Brooklyn case, and as such, the government no longer requires Apple's assistance in unlocking the phone. The government had previously been asking for a court order mandating that Apple bypass the lock screen of Feng's iPhone 5.

This Brooklyn case has been considerably lower profile than that involving the San Bernardino shooter: the latter sparked a nationwide debate over privacy and encryption, and prompted officials here in New York to reiterate their stances against phone encryption. When Apple announced that it would be resisting the government's request in the San Bernardino case, NYPD Commissioner Bratton argued that "terrorist threats and criminal threats threaten [Apple's] customers much more" than a tool that could unlock encrypted iPhones, and the Manhattan District Attorney said that Apple and Google had become the "sheriffs" of the "wild west of technology."

But the Brooklyn case actually laid the groundwork for Apple's headline-making fight against the feds in California. In both cases, the government relied on the All Writs Act, a 1789 statute that gives courts the broad power to issue orders when alternate judicial tools aren't available. Last fall, however, a Brooklyn judge said that it was not clear the All Writs Act applied at all in the case of Feng's iPhone. Apple's lawyers argued that "the situation would be no different than if the government sought to use the All Writs Act to force a safe manufacturer to travel around the country unlocking safes that the government wants to access, or to make a lock manufacturer pick locks for the government."

If ordered to unlock the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone, Apple would have had to build a tool that would disable the feature that causes a phone to erase its data after 10 failed password attempts. According to the New York Times, in the Brooklyn case, Feng's phone was running an older operating system, so unlocking it wouldn't have required quite as much technical innovation. Earlier this week, it was revealed that the FBI may have paid hackers upwards of $1.3 million to unlock Farook's phone.

Though the government's demands in these two cases are now moot, the debate over encryption and customer privacy is ongoing: Apple is fighting a court order to unlock a phone in a gang-related case in Boston, and has objected in dozens of other similar instances.