FBI Director Says Apple Marketing Encryption Snubs the Law

Today in cops getting angry about the new encryption on smartphones features FBI Director James Comey who is "very concerned" about the matter. He's so concerned that the FBI's had conversations with Apple and Google about how they're marketing the devices. And Comey wants America to know that he's upset.

"I am a huge believer in the rule of law, but I am also a believer that no one in this country is above the law," Comey said on Thursday at FBI headquarters. "What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to place themselves above the law."


Put another way, Apple and Google think that they're above the law because they built encryption into their mobile devices that protects users' privacy. These improved security measures also make it more difficult for police to get information off of the devices, and it's not a huge surprise that police do not like this. Comey's comments come just a day after a controversial column one of his former colleagues penned in The Washington Post. (That former FBI assistant director also got his facts wrong.) Comey said that this new approach "does not make any sense."

Well, it makes sense to some people, namely advocates of civil liberties who believe that American citizens should have the right to keep their data away of the government's prying eyes. It surely makes a lot of sense to people who've been victims of government surveillance, which we've recently learned is much more widespread than previously thought. And it definitely makes sense to me. [HuffPost]

Cops Have No Right to Be Angry About the iPhone's New Encryption

Security professionals and joe-schmoes alike cheered Apple's recent announcement that it would no longer be able to turn iPhone data over to cops. Finally, a guarantee that authorities couldn't snoop around your text messages! But you know who didn't cheer? Cops, of course.

Ronald T. Hosko, former Assistant Director of the FBI Criminal Investigative Division, published an opinion piece in The Washington Post today that said as much. Chances are other law enforcement officers and agencies are upset about the new security measures, too. They just didn't write a piece about it for one of America's largest newspapers.


Specifically, Hosko bemoaned the fact that a seized cell phone helped save a man's life earlier this year. As the former FBI agent put it, Apple's announcement last week—and the similar Android announcement that followed it—means that your photos and emails are safer from prying eyes. BUT:

It also means law enforcement officials won't be able to look at the range of data stored on the device, even with a court-approved warrant. Had this technology been used by the conspirators in our case, our victim would be dead. The perpetrators would likely be freely plotting their next revenge attack.

There are a couple glaring problems with this reasoning. For one, as a security researcher proved earlier this week, it's not impossible for police to look at this data. It's just more difficult.


The bigger issue at hand is the assumption that better law enforcement should come at the expense of civil liberties. Sure, cops could probably solve all kinds of crimes if they had more access to citizens' private data! Maybe we should install police-operated cameras on every street corner, so the police can watch us all the time. (That's already happening, by the way.) Even better, let's just turn every building into a Panopticon and employ government-run robots to listen in on every conversation. (That's also already happening.) Who cares if it's a little dystopian?

American citizens care. American citizens were excited about the improved security measures, because they've spent the last year being told about the dozens of different ways that their own government spies on them. American citizens deserve privacy as much as they deserve security.

One more thing: American citizens also don't really trust cops, and that isn't helped by the fact that cops have been doing some pretty shady things lately. One only needs to look as far as Ferguson, Missouri to comprehend this truth—and it is a tragic truth.


Criminals are going to commit crime. That's another tragic truth. And cops spent centuries solving crimes without cell phone data. I, for one, have faith that they can also figure out how to do that in this new modern era of improved privacy. [WaPo]

Image via AP