Bloomberg reports that a Manhattan District Attorney is challenging recent moves by Apple, Google and other tech companies by suggesting government pass laws that prevent mobile devices from being “sealed off from law enforcement.” In an interview this week, the government official called it “an issue of public safety.”
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Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Google Inc. (GOOG) should be legally required to give police access to customer data necessary to investigate crimes, New York County’s top prosecutor said… Federal and state governments should consider passing laws that forbid smartphones, tablets and other such devices from being “sealed off from law enforcement,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said today in an interview at a cybersecurity conference in New York.
Late last year other government officials criticized Apple’s policy on encrypting user data including statements made by United States Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI director James Comey in September. The statement came at the same time 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. In the updated policies, Apple clarified that much of a user’s data in iOS 8 is encrypted and not accessible by it or law enforcement:
On devices running iOS 8, your personal data such as photos, messages (including attachments), email, contacts, call history, iTunes content, notes, and reminders is placed under the protection of your passcode. Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data. So it’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8.
Another twist to the story came in October of last year when a Virginia District Court ruled that while phone passcodes are protected by the 5th Amendment, which says that those accused of crimes cannot be compelled to incriminate themselves, there is no such protection against using a suspect’s fingerprint to unlock a phone.
“It’s developed into a sort of high-stakes game,” Vance said. “They’ve eliminated accessibility in order to market the product. Now that means we have to figure out how to solve a problem that we didn’t create.”
FBI Director James Comey is scheduled to talk tomorrow at the same cybersecurity conference that Vance appeared at today.