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FBI says Apple and Google’s new privacy features help people ‘place themselves above the law’

Published Sep 25th, 2014 5:30PM EDT
FBI vs. Apple and Google
Image: ABCHS

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Just as the furor surrounding the NSA seemed to be quieting down, Apple picked up right where the government agency left off when iCloud was found to be the culprit in the case of the leaked celebrity photos early this month. The leak elicited a renewed demand for privacy, but as Apple, Google and others strengthen their security, the FBI is becoming increasingly concerned.

According to The Huffington Post, FBI director James Comey told the press at FBI headquarters on Thursday that the protection many tech companies promise their customers is getting out of hand.

“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,” said Comey. “What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to place themselves above the law.”

Just last week, Apple notified the public that it would be all but impossible for law enforcement officials to unlock an encrypted iOS device. Even if Apple receives a warrant to hand over sensitive data, the company wouldn’t be able to comply because it has no viable way of accessing that information. Comey is sympathetic to the public’s desire for privacy, but he believes it could come at a price.

“I like and believe very much that we should have to obtain a warrant from an independent judge to be able to take the content of anyone’s closet or their smart phone,” said Comey. “The notion that someone would market a closet that could never be opened — even if it involves a case involving a child kidnapper and a court order — to me does not make any sense.”

The FBI has spoken to both Apple and Google, as Android devices ensure many of the same protections as an iPhone or an iPad. It’s unclear whether the involved parties have reached any kind of conclusion. At the very least, Apple and Google may shift their marketing tactics in the future.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.