Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation James Comey expressed his concern today over Apple and Google’s decision to encrypt information stored on smartphones, the Huffington Post reports, adding that FBI officials are pushing both companies to change their policies in order to allow law enforcement officials to access data in certain instances.
“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 told reporters at FBI headquarters in Washington. “What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to place themselves above the law.”
In the case of the iPhone maker, Apple CEO Tim Cook used the company’s privacy stance as a major marketing point on a number of occasions over the past month.
Earlier this month during an interview with Charlie Rose, Cook specified that user information is encrypted beyond Apple’s reach:
We’re not reading your email, we’re not reading your iMessages. If the government laid a subpoena on us to get your iMessages, we can’t provide it. It’s encrypted and we don’t have the key.
Following that interview, Apple published an open letter on privacy from the CEO alongside an updated website dedicated to presenting Apple’s policy on user privacy and data regarding government requests for information.
For Apple, the push toward highlighting user privacy came after a number of celebrities found themselves the target of leaked, intimate photographs accessed through Apple’s services. Apple has since stepped up certain security measures including notifications to users when iCloud.com is accessed.
FBI director Comey cited examples such as instances of kidnapping and terrorism for reasons law enforcement authorities would need to gain access to user data stored on smartphones.