Story 2014-09-30 2T14 U.S. law enforcement officials urge Apple and Google not to encrypt smartphone data

U.S. law enforcement officials urge Apple and Google not to encrypt smartphone data

in legal on (#2T14)
After Edward Snowden revealed the extent to which the NSA had unfettered access to corporations' internal networks, and several high-profile hacker data leaks, technology companies have stepped up efforts to shield their customers' data. Apple's IOS8 and Google's Android L both encrypt user data if the user selects a pass-phrase, making it inaccessible to 3rd parties.

But in a move reminiscent of the Clinton-era clipper chip initiative (which would have required all cryptographic software to provide the US Government with unfettered access to your encrypted data) US Law enforcement agencies are pushing back, calling for Apple and Google to weaken or eliminate the new security features. U.S. Justice Department and FBI officials are trying to understand how the new Apple and Google Android systems work and how the companies could change the encryption to make it accessible when court ordered.

This comes after years of the FBI, TSA, ICE, and police departments across the country routinely appropriating all the data on personal electronic devices, without a warrant, of anyone they stopped to search for any reason. Only recently have some of these warrant-less searches been ruled illegal by unanimous supreme court decision.
Reply 5 comments

Without a warrant... (Score: 2, Insightful)

by on 2014-09-30 19:39 (#2T16)

Keep in mind too that the Supreme Court decision noted above isn't much of a barrier to a curious cop. Getting a warrant means filling out an extra bit of paperwork and waking a judge up - the decision might be counted as a victory, but it isn't much of a victory. Judges tend to rubber-stamp warrants. Heck, waking a judge up at night is more likely to get a cop a rubber-stamped warrant approval - they assume the cop did it for a damn good reason.

This decision by the major smartphone OS makers is pretty much the only thing standing between normal people and police business as usual, not to mention all the malicious apps, stalking ex-spouses, and curious roommates in the world. Besides, those lovely orders compelling people to give out their passwords have to get some use, right? (Yep, the US does that, albeit not as brazenly as the UK.) This is not a settled area of US law, despite our 5th Amendment. Things are going to get interesting in the next few years. In the meantime, score one for the good guys.

Re: Without a warrant... (Score: 3, Insightful)

by on 2014-09-30 23:45 (#2T18)

Getting a warrant isn't a huge hurdle, but it's a slow, manual step, which prevents the kind of indiscriminate large-scale slurping of all the data on the phones of anyone they stop for any reason... Cops aren't going to wake-up a judge to get a warrant for every traffic stop, so the ruling substantially raises the bar compared to the completely unrestricted status quo.

Re: Without a warrant... (Score: 2, Insightful)

by on 2014-10-01 14:56 (#2T1H)

Good points, but one more: it creates a paper-trail.

Trust (Score: 1)

by on 2014-10-01 15:50 (#2T1K)

Yeah, I'm not surprised. Still, its silly to think that these guys have pure motives.

Re: Trust (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-10-02 03:21 (#2T1Y)

Why cripple yourself, USA?