Following the introduction of iOS 8, Apple CEO Tim Cook published a letter to the public that highlighted Apple’s efforts to keep private data secure and out of the hands of the government. Google also confirmed that Android L will ship with encryption out of the box. We already know that the FBI is worried what this might mean for national security and now the government may step in to put a stop to the tight controls promised by Google and Apple.
According to Bloomberg, both the FBI and the United States Justice Department are planning to – if they haven’t already – reach out to Google and Apple to “understand how the new Apple and Google Android systems work and how the companies could change the encryption to make it accessible when court ordered.”
Of course, that entirely defeats the purpose of what Apple and Google are trying to do in the first place: keep private customer data private. “I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services,” Tim Cook said earlier this month. “We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will.” Cook also said it’s not even possible to hand over some of the data that the government might want.
Still, FBI director James Comey has argued that there needs to be a larger conversation about mobile security and providing the government with access to data when it needs it to catch criminals and fight terrorism. Bloomberg cites one official who is particularly worried about drug trafficking and the role mobile devices play in that arena. The other side of that argument, however, is that the encrypted data makes everyone safer, including the government agencies and employees who use devices powered by iOS and Android.
The FBI and DOJ “requests to the companies may include letters, personal appeals or congressional legislation,” Bloomberg explained. Will Apple or Google budge? It seems unlikely given the stance both have taken at this point, but what if that stance becomes unlawful?