Ever since Apple announced that it didn’t have a backdoor to decipher information encrypted on iPhones, law-enforcement officials have been taking every opportunity to emphasize that the company is heading in the wrong direction. In the latest worst-case scenario thrown in during an hour-long discussion with Justice Department officials and Apple representatives, a child would die because police wouldn’t be able to look into the suspect’s phone.
Mr. Cole offered the Apple team a gruesome prediction: At some future date, a child will die, and police will say they would have been able to rescue the child, or capture the killer, if only they could have looked inside a certain phone.
His statements reflected concern within the FBI that a careful criminal can shield much activity from police surveillance by minimizing use of cellphone towers and not backing up data.
Apple’s position, however, remains unchanged. Its representatives thought the dead-child scenario was inflammatory, and informed the Justice Department officials that they can obtain the same information from telecom companies, backup computers, and other phones if needed, people attending the meeting told the WSJ.
Fact is, Apple isn’t the only tech company resisting government requests for cooperation and beefing up their use of encryption. WhatsApp, for example, now encrypts text sent from one Android phone to another; Google also encrypts data; and apparently telecom companies such as AT&T are challenging the legal framework investigators use to collect call logs and location info about suspects.
During the meeting between Apple and Justice Department representatives, Apple’s counsel Bruce Sewell said the company is marketing products to customers, not criminals. If the government wants more information from Apple, it should change the law to require all companies that handle communications to provide a means for law enforcement agencies to access communications.