In April, a federal judge in New York ruled that Apple must stop collecting data on millions of iPhone users as a result of a lawsuit filed by two New York residents.
That decision effectively shut down the controversial tracking program known as the “Stored Communications Program” for iPhone users.
Now, the Justice Department has joined the lawsuit, saying the surveillance program violates the privacy rights of New Yorkers.
“Apple has a fundamental interest in preventing terrorists and criminals from accessing iPhone devices, but the company’s collection of and use of user data violates the Fourth Amendment,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch in a statement.
“I am reviewing the complaint to determine if there is merit in the plaintiffs’ claims.”
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Justice’s announcement.
Apple began collecting data from iPhone users on September 15, 2015, after the FBI began tracking the phone’s location with a cell tower it installed in a house in the Bronx.
FBI Director James Comey told Congress in March that the bureau would start collecting the phone-tracking data after obtaining a court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
The Justice Department’s announcement, which was made public Friday, came as the FBI launched a massive new sting operation targeting members of ISIS in the U.S.
The new sting program, called “Strike Force” and known as “Operation Takedown,” targets foreign-born men who are “radicalized” by their travels in the Middle East and have traveled to the United States.
According to the Justice, the agency has obtained “significant” information from the phones of “several dozen individuals” who were targets of the “Strike Team” operation.
According the agency, the men had traveled to Iraq and Syria as well as Somalia and Pakistan.
The agency is also targeting those men who were “radicalizing” in the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, and Canada.
The agency claims the men have travelled to “the West Bank, Lebanon, Gaza, Syria, Turkey, and Iraq.”
In total, the government has collected and tracked over 200,000 phone records in “the past 12 months,” the Justice claims.