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Apple and Google’s new encryption rules will make law enforcement’s job much harder

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Via Washington Post

Apple and Google’s new encryption rules will make law enforcement’s job much harder

Shortly before I retired as assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division in April, I watched a bizarre kidnapping unfold. An older man was tased, beaten and zip-tied, then forcibly taken from his home in Wake Forest, N.C. The victim was the father of a local prosecutor who’d helped try members of a violent, nationwide gang.

Hundreds of FBI, state, and local law enforcement personnel worked tirelessly to find the victim and kidnappers. Once we identified potential conspirators, we quickly requested and secured the legal authority to intercept phone calls and text messages on multiple devices.

That led us to the victim, just minutes before his life was to end. He’d been locked in a closet in a vacant public housing project apartment in Atlanta, hundreds of miles from his home, quietly awaiting his own execution.

Last week, Apple and Google announced that their new operating systems will be encrypted by default. Encrypting a phone doesn’t make it any harder to tap, or “lawfully intercept” calls. But it does limit law enforcement’s access to a data, contacts, photos and email stored on the phone itself.

That kind information can help law enforcement officials solve big cases quickly. For example, criminals sometimes avoid phone interception by communicating plans via Snapchat or video. Their phones contain contacts, texts, and geo-tagged data that can help police track down accomplices. These new rules will make it impossible for us to access that information. They will create needless delays that could cost victims their lives.*

Law enforcement officials rely on all kinds of tools to solve crimes and bring criminals to justice. Most investigations don’t rely solely on information from one source, even a smartphone. But without each and every important piece of the investigative puzzle, criminals and those who plan acts destructive to our national security may walk free.

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