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The FBI ratchets up its scare campaign over smartphone encryption

Published Oct 17th, 2014 9:05PM EDT
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Did you know that if Apple and Google encrypt data on smartphones then terrorists, pedophiles and other very bad people will be able to roam completely free and likely destroy society as we know it? That’s the message that Federal Bureau of Investigation chief James Comey has been sending and he was at it again this week in a speech delivered to the Brookings Institute in which he railed against smartphone encryption as a direct threat to law enforcement’s ability to gather evidence.

RELATED: The government is shamelessly trying to scare Apple and Google from encrypting their phones

“Unfortunately, the law hasn’t kept pace with technology, and this disconnect has created a significant public safety problem,” Comey said in his speech. “We call it ‘Going Dark,’ and what it means is this: Those charged with protecting our people aren’t always able to access the evidence we need to prosecute crime and prevent terrorism even with lawful authority…. With Going Dark, those of us in law enforcement and public safety have a major fear of missing out—missing out on predators who exploit the most vulnerable among us… Criminals and terrorists would like nothing more than for us to miss out.”

You’ll be unsurprised to know that the situation for the FBI isn’t as dire as Comey makes it out to be. Although Apple and Google may be closing off one avenue for police to investigate criminal suspects, technology as a whole has given them a lot more important tools to use than they’ve ever had before. Not only can law enforcement officials track suspects’ every move with the help of cellular providers’ metadata but they can also access every piece of data that suspects store in cloud services’ servers provided they have a warrant.

In other words, any criminal who thinks that they’ll be able to do whatever they want with their smartphones now that Apple and Google have encrypted their platforms’ data without fear of getting caught would be an absolute fool since cops still have plenty of other ways to track what they do on their mobile devices.

Brad Reed
Brad Reed Staff Writer

Brad Reed has written about technology for over eight years at and Network World. Prior to that, he wrote freelance stories for political publications such as AlterNet and the American Prospect. He has a Master's Degree in Business and Economics Journalism from Boston University.