FBI director thinks encryption will allow terrorists and rapists to roam free
Encrypting cell phones will prevent the federal government from being able to stop terrorists and child molesters unless the government is given special, unrestricted access. At least, that’s what James Comey, the Federal Bureau of Investigation Director, told a think tank in Washington DC on Thursday.
“I’ve never been someone who is a scaremonger,” he added. “But I’m in a dangerous business. So I want to ensure that when we discuss limiting the court-authorized law enforcement tools we use to investigate suspected criminals, that we understand what society gains, and what we all stand to lose.”
Comey noted that “both real-time communication and stored data are increasingly encrypted.” He added that the trend by service providers and technology companies to encrypt the data of their customers could prevent the government from lawfully pursuing criminals.
“Justice may be denied, because of a locked phone or an encrypted hard drive,” Comey said in his prepared remarks at the Brookings Institute. He explained that while Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) from 1994 mandated that telephone companies build wiretapping backdoors into their equipment, no such law forces new communication companies to do the same.
He called out the default encryption that Apple has implemented in newer version of iOS, and the optional encryption that Google has implemented in newer versions of Android, as blocking law enforcement from being able to fully gather evidence against suspects. His solution to this problem is to require technology companies to build “front-doors” on consumer mobile devices.
“We aren’t seeking a back-door approach,” Comey said, referring to a common term for encryption that has been intentionally weakened. “We want to use the front door, with clarity and transparency, and with clear guidance provided by law,” including court orders, he said.
Read more about the story at Ars Technica.