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A phone with Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon apps. Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images

Federal investigators are in a battle with Facebook trying to force the tech company to unlock end-to-end encryption on its Messenger app so they can eavesdrop on a specific user as part of an investigation into the MS-13 gang.

The big picture: Despite Facebook's effort to thwart the government's access to private data, it isn't uncommon for agencies to request similar data from tech companies including giants like Google and Apple.

Between the lines: Though this particular data request is larger than average, tech companies are queried for data thousands of times per year from federal agencies.

Flashback: A similar situation arose with Apple and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2016 when investigators requested Apple help gain entry into an iPhone used by Syed Rizwan Farook, who carried out the 2015 San Bernardino shooting that resulted in the deaths of 14 people.

The company denied the request, citing the precedent it would set moving forward and potential ethical issues that could arise from it. Apple asserted that forcing the company to write a new software code allowing it to unlock the phone would violate freedoms protected by the First Amendment rights.

  • Investigators were worried that they wouldn't be able to figure out the phone's four digit passcode without using all of the allotted 10 tries and wiping its data.
  • The FBI eventually paid hackers to get into the phone, which allowed the bureau to drop the case against Apple.

The bottom line: The government requesting access to protected data is a regular occurrence for the tech industry and most often play a role in a larger investigation. However, the tech industry has vigorously protected its rights and the rights of users and that is unlikely to change any time soon.

Go deeper

A new Washington

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Image

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Friday that the city should expect a "new normal" for security — even after President-elect Biden's inauguration.

The state of play: Inaugurations are usually a point of celebration in D.C., but over 20,000 troops are now patrolling Washington streets in an unprecedented preparation for Biden's swearing-in on Jan. 20.

Mike Pence calls Kamala Harris to offer congratulations and help

Mike Pence. Photo: Chip Somodevilla via Getty

Vice President Mike Pence called Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Thursday to congratulate her and offer assistance in the transition, the New York Times first reported.

Why it matters: The belated conversation came six days before the inauguration after a contentious post-election stretch. President Trump has neither spoken with President-elect Joe Biden, nor explicitly conceded the 2020 election.

Updated 2 hours ago - Health

The coronavirus variants: What you need to know

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

New variants of the coronavirus circulating globally appear to increase transmission and are being closely monitored by scientists.

Driving the news: The highly contagious variant B.1.1.7 originally detected in the U.K. could become the dominant strain in the U.S. by March if no measures are taken to control the spread of the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.