The recent moves by Apple and Google to increase privacy protections on their smartphones has drawn strong criticism from FBI Director James Comey and other law enforcement officials. In a briefing on Thursday, Comey questioned why those companies would "market something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law," according to a report in the Washington Post.
Last week, Apple revealed that its latest operating system update -- iOS 8 -- would prevent it from being able to bypass iPhone owners' passcode protections, even if the company was served with a warrant by law enforcement officials. Google followed up that announcement with its own privacy upgrade plans, stating that the next version of its Android operating system -- set for release in October -- will have encryption activated as a default.
Law enforcement officials have found themselves on the defensive in the wake of several recent electronic privacy developments. In addition to the moves by Apple and Google, those developments have included this summer's ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that law enforcement officials generally need a warrant before they can search the contents of a suspect's cellphone.
'Phone of Choice' for Pedophiles?
It’s worth noting that neither Apple’s nor Google’s encryption updates will ensure the privacy of data stored in the cloud. Law enforcement and government agencies can still issue warrants to access information stored on cloud servers. Data stored in the cloud also remains vulnerable to hacking attacks, as evidenced by the recent high-profile release of nude photos stolen from the iCloud backups of a number of celebrities.
Technology companies and law enforcement officials have been at odds since Edward Snowden's revelations about widespread electronic surveillance by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and other government agencies. Apple, for instance, recently updated its privacy policies, which note that the company has "never worked with any government agency from any country to create a 'back door' in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed any government access to our servers. And we never will."
In response to such developments, law enforcement officials have offered dire warnings about the impact on their abilities to combat crime. The chief of detectives for the Chicago Police Department, for example, told the Washington Post that, "Apple will become the phone of choice for the pedophile."
Cooperation vs. Back-Door Access
Jonathan Zdziarski, an expert in iOS digital forensics, said such criticism misses the point of Apple's upgraded encryption.
In a lengthy post on his blog published Thursday, Zdziarski said, "The FBI is not asking for Apple to 'cooperate' in investigations. The FBI, whether they realize it or not, is asking Apple to back-door their own products so that Apple can still let them in, and so that they don't have to work so hard to do their jobs."
But this isn’t about choosing to help law enforcement, Zdziarski noted. "I’ve done that for years. This is about the idea of embedding backdoors into technology in order to help law enforcement," he said. "We’re not talking about Apple choosing whether or not to turn over data to law enforcement that they are in possession of. We are talking about Apple choosing whether or not to insert a backdoor into their own products in order to obtain data that they currently do not possess . . . These poor decisions in security affect not only the criminals and terrorists in that email, but they affect everything ranging on up to our national security."
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Posted: 2014-10-16 @ 3:09pm PT
Personal communications are personal. Personal and private between the Callee and Caller unless one of them takes an issue to Law Enforcement >> But if Law Enforcement is monitoring our devices in secret they are in effect monitoring us in the hopes we'll eventually break a law that gets headlines...
Posted: 2014-10-16 @ 3:01pm PT
It's my phone, and my info/data on the phone. There's no way they could go thru your snailmail or other documents without a search warrant signed by a judge, so what gives Law Enforcement the right to monitor a phone without getting the always necessary warrant?? Although not having a PW on your device kind of invites anyone who has possession to go exploring.
Posted: 2014-09-26 @ 1:38pm PT
Privacy is not about putting onself "beyond the law". It is about getting proper protection of the law. If the FBI wants access to my data, it shall get a warrant from a judge. What I do with my phone is nobody's business and finally Apple (and to a lesser extent Google) has understood to put its commercial interests back and to let me dispose of my private information as I see please.
Posted: 2014-09-26 @ 11:00am PT
Sounds to me like the FBI director just confirmed that America has officially become a police state!!!
Name Goes Here:
Posted: 2014-09-26 @ 10:20am PT
Wow, how could anyone have justified the actions by Apple and Google more than the director just did!