After the launch of devices by Apple and Google that will automatically encrypt data stored on the device, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, FBI Director James Comey and local police officials said encryption will make it harder to investigate crime, but it won’t keep intelligence and law enforcement agencies from obtaining evidence linked to the devices.
“Citizens should not assume that these encryption devices will necessarily prevent government from intercepting communications,” Jonathan Turley, a constitutional-law professor at The George Washington University Law School, said. “If history is any guide, the government will find a way to penetrate these devices.”
Earlier, encryption was optional on these devices. “This is going to have a very big impact on law enforcement,” said Stewart Baker, a former general counsel for the NSA.”There will be crimes that people get away with because this information is not available.”
However, many traditional investigative methods will still work.“Wiretaps would still work. You can also get call-details records,” he said. “That’s available from the phone companies and it’s not affected by this decision.”
Inbuilt encryption gives customer the confidence of security and is a selling point for the companies.
“There’s a little bit of PR, there’s a little bit of competitive pressure, and there’s a little bit of honest effort to improve the security of the Internet as a whole,” said Jon Oberheide, co-founder and chief technology officer of Duo Security. The Ann Arbor, Michigan-based company provides computer security.
Improved security and encryption just makes it difficult for NSA to get into the device, but NSA will still be able to peek in to prevent any terrorist activity, Turley said.
The NSA is “concerned about the proliferation of any technology that might allow international terrorists or other foreign intelligence targets to evade lawfully authorized surveillance,” said agency spokeswoman Vanee Vines. “As a general rule, NSA does not comment on specific, alleged foreign intelligence capabilities,” she said.
A Google spokeswoman, Niki Christoff, said “People previously used safes and combination locks to keep their information secure — now they use encryption.” Niki Christoff, a Google spokeswoman, said in an email. “It’s why we have worked hard to provide this added security for our users,” she added.
Apple spokesman Colin Johnson declined to comment on the impact of their encryption measures beyond pointing out a public statement by Apple CEO Tim Cook on the company’s website.
“We have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services,” Cook wrote. “We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will.”