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Government at Standoff with Mobile Encryption

Mobile EncryptionIn one of the few times an tech issue intersects with a political issue on this website, the Wall Street Journal reported today the United States Government is at odds with mobile device manufacturers and software developers over mobile encryption, saying it could lead to a “tragedy. ” The issue at hand is Apple, Google and other mobile software developers purposefully protecting users data, and preventing chances for law enforcement officers to unlock a locked device. In doing so, the software companies are combating the perception they are providing a “backdoor” for data to compromised by the government.

Law-enforcement officials, tone-deaf to the 4th Ammendment, believe this shift towards sheltering users data from government intrusion could lead to a tragedy. Even with a court-order it will now become more difficult for officials to gain access to a device’s data including pictures, messages, appointments or contacts. For instance, were Apple to be served with a court order, they wouldn’t even have the ability to decrypt the phone’s data.

While the government isn’t completely without recourse, as the majority of desired information can be obtained through wireless carriers, with regard to call logs and messages sent, coupled with files/information backed up to the computer.¬†As a result of NSA information being leaked in how data collection on US Citizens is carried out, some might rightly call it spying, tech manufacturers and software developers are doing their part to avoid the blame. The WSJ article also reports WhatsAPP, owned by Facebook, is now encrypting text messages sent via the free data-driven service. Manufacturers and software developers aren’t alone, however, as telecommunications providers are starting to challenge the legality behind the government collecting data (spying) on citizens.

Under the guise of the Patriot Act, and “national security” the director of the FBI, James Comey, was quoted as saying “We need our private sector partners to take a step back, to pause to consider, I hope, a change of course.” Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, had this to say “Look, if law enforcement wants something they should go to the user and get it. It’s not for me to do that.”

The move to tweak software to encrypt data seems foolproof. As the government continues to overreach in “surveillance” rulings, there isn’t much (any?) legal precedence to force a manufacturer/developer to alter their Intellectual Property.

Photo from Wired‘s fantastic Article on iPhone encryption

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