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Law enforcement is annoyed at the new levels of smartphone encryption

Apple & Google announced that additional security procedures are in place to make it more difficult for law enforcement to retrieve data off a smartphone.
September 24, 2014

Recently, Apple and Google announced that additional security procedures would be put in place to make it more difficult for law enforcement to retrieve data off a person’s passcode protected smartphone. According to the Wall Street Journal, this has raised alarms inside law enforcement agencies and even forced the agencies to consider how to “forcefully” respond back.

Apple has recently stated that their new operating system would prevent law enforcement from retrieving data stored on a locked phone, while Google has also stated that its next operating system would make it more difficult for anyone (including law enforcement) to take data off a person’s smartphone.

Several officials in Washington said they were bracing for a confrontation with Silicon Valley on the issue, the latest fallout from the revelations by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden about government surveillance. Last week’s announcements surprised senior federal law-enforcement officials, some of whom described it as the most alarming consequence to date of the frayed relationship between the federal government and the tech industry since the Snowden revelations prompted companies to address customers’ concerns that the firms were letting—or helping—the government snoop on their private information. – Wall Street Journal

As you would expect, one former FBI official told the Wall Street Journal that this was “outrageous” while another former FBI official claimed that this new level of security was similar to a child being abused and kidnapped with no one there to help them.

The level of privacy described by Apple and Google is “wonderful until it’s your kid who is kidnapped and being abused, and because of the technology, we can’t get to them,” said Ronald Hosko, who left the FBI earlier this year as the head of its criminal-investigations division. “Who’s going to get lost because of this, and we’re not going to crack the case?” – Wall Street Journal

In June, the Supreme Court ruled that search warrants were required for access of smartphone data in nearly all instances, adding that the legal standard “is quickly being rendered moot; eventually no form of legal compulsion will suffice to force the unlocking of most smartphones.”

This does not mean that either Apple or Google will stop handing over all data to law enforcement, nor does it mean that the police can’t access a portion of a person’s smartphone without Apple or Google’s help. It just means that a large portion of the information on a person’s phone will now be much more difficult for law enforcement to intercept, especially since Apple and Google are claiming that not even they will be able to decrypt passcode-protected phones running the latest versions of iOS and Android respectively.

Im watching you NSA

But let’s not kid ourselves, as some commentators are reminding consumers that law enforcement agencies can still obtain information stored on Google’s and Apple’s servers, which is not protected by device encryption.

Still it is quite concerning that law enforcement continues to act as if crime would disappear if we just gave up our civil liberties. In fact, as one poster mentioned on Gizmodo, aren’t the procedures set in place specifically to protect our civil liberties?