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FBI to Apple, Google: Your New Privacy Policies Are Making People Less Safe

Former Staff Writer
3 min read

The FBI has not taken kindly to new smartphone security measures enacted by Apple and Google, which will encrypt data deeply beyond the reach of law enforcement officials -- even those in possession of a legal search warrant.

In tapping the vast pool of emails, messages, call logs, photos and more that reside on most smartphones, police are able to resolve life-threatening crimes -- including murder, child pornography and potential terrorist attacks -- that would likely otherwise go unresolved, said FBI director James Comey in a briefing with reporters yesterday.

Nevertheless, Apple’s new version of iOS 8 and Google’s latest mobile operating system, Android L, will prevent anyone other than a device’s owner from accessing this potentially fertile trove.

Related: Texting and Driving? Not So Fast -- General Motors is Watching You

“Apple will become the phone of choice for the pedophile,” John Escalante, chief of detectives for Chicago’s police department, told The Washington Post. “The average pedophile at this point is probably thinking, I’ve got to get an Apple phone.”

"What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law," Comey added.

Though Apple says its new encryption policies aim to protect victims of iPhone theft and not thwart investigations, the FBI has reached out to both companies to make its concerns known, according to the Post.

Related: John McAfee: You Should Care That Your Privacy Is Disappearing

The new operating systems call into question the evolving notion of privacy in a digital age. Amid widespread repudiation of mass NSA surveillance and outrage over incessant data breaches and hack attacks, some say that the new smartphone encryption measures are shortsighted.

“The outrage is directed at warrantless mass surveillance, and this is a very different context,” Orin Kerr, a former Justice Department computer crimes lawyer told the Post. “It’s searching a device with a warrant.”

Despite being barred from smartphones themselves, the FBI will still have access to certain data, notes the Post. Officials can still obtain call and text records from cellphone carriers, listen in on live conversations and determine suspect location based on cell towers. They can also access an array of information through the cloud, where smartphone users frequently back up the data from their devices.

Related: OkCupid Founder: 'If You Use the Internet, You're the Subject of Hundreds of Experiments'

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