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Justice Department Argues Stronger Mobile Encryption Could Aid Killers

by Brandon Russell | November 20, 2014November 20, 2014 12:00 pm PDT

Google Nexus 6 vs iPhone 6-5

The Justice Department feels mobile encryption is getting so good that it could lead to tragedy. According to The Wall Street Journal, government officials apparently fear that new technology could make it impossible for law enforcement to look through phones—messages, photos, appointments, etc.—ultimately making their job more difficult. In fact, the Justice Department went so far as to blame encryption technology on the death of children.

That’s just one scare tactic employed by officials.

The problem is that consumers have begged and pleaded with companies for better security so their privacy is protected. But it becomes a double-edged sword. The technology developed by Apple and Google has become so good that not even the companies can access the information found on phones. Law enforcement sees the more advanced encryption as a step in the wrong direction, and feels it will ultimately aid the more nefarious individuals of the world.

Government requests for information aren’t uncommon in the year 2014, and technology is improving so rapidly that when something is encrypted, it can’t be reversed. Earlier this week, WhatsApp, which was acquired by Facebook, said its messaging service is capable of sending encrypted messages from one Android phone to another, with no way to decrypt that information for law enforcement.

The government is apparently going to great lengths to acquire data in a post 9/11 state, which becomes increasingly paranoid every time new technology is released. Google Glass may have been doomed by this privacy mess, while just being on your phone could reveal all kinds of information about a user. Last month, an FBI executive essentially implied that companies like Apple and Google are aiding terrorism, and putting people beyond the law.

If companies like Apple and Google did allow back door access to mobile operating systems, and agreed to feed data to the government, it would surely set off alarm bells with consumers. Tech companies have attempted to distance themselves from the government ever since the NSA revelations were presented by Edward Snowden. It’s why better encryption exists. But that doesn’t sit well with the U.S. government, which feels companies should willingly hand over information.

James Cole, deputy general at the Justice Department, offered up a particularly gruesome scenario, via WSJ, should a company like Apple fail to hand over information to law enforcement:

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.

So for wanting better privacy, should I also feel partially responsible for that child’s death?


Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...

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