Mobile Device Encryption Could Lead to a ‘Very, Very Dark Place’- FBI Director James Comey
Comey went carried through attacking Google and Apple for most part of his one hour long speech at Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C.. Encryption has always been a challenge for law enforcement agencies and with the latest encryption brought by Google and Apple in their mobile devices particularly in a situation where the makers themselves dont hold the encryption keys from user’s device has brought lot of heart ache to the government snooping agencies. The recent launches from both Apple and Google means that these companies will also not be able to decrypt information from users device even when asked by a law enforcement agencies through a court order.
Comey said he understands that these companies are trying to provide users with what the market demands
“Encryption isn’t just a technical feature; it’s a marketing pitch. it’s the equivalent of a closet that can’t be opened. A safe that can’t be cracked. And my question is, at what cost?” Comey said. “Both companies are run by good people, responding to what they perceive is a market demand. But the place they are leading us is one we shouldn’t go to without careful thought and debate.” he added.
Recent revelations of the NSA’s capabilities made by Edward Snowden and the recent hacks in big websites and service habe played their part in users seeking end to end encryption of their data.
“The prevailing view is that the government is sweeping up all of our communications. That is not true,” , “Some believe that the government and the FBI especially has these phenomenal communications capabilities. That’s the product of too much TV.” he said.
FBI said that it is not looking for a backdoor or vulnerability to carry on the lawful surveillance, so in defence to the decryption needs, they point out that, with sophisticated encryption they won’t be able to track the criminals.
The encryption is a challenge to National Security Agency (NSA) which relieves heavily on smartphone snooping. FBI Director made a veiled threat that if the tech companies themselves dont come up with a way to help the law enforcement agencies to help decrypt the users information when demanded lawfully, “CONGRESS MIGHT HAVE TO FORCE THIS ON COMPANIES”.
While the ordinary users and privacy advocates seem happy with the latest encryption enabled in the mobile devices by Apple and Google, law enforcement agencies seems to be unable to digest it. How far this slugfest between the US law enforcement agencies and the tech companies go, is anybody’s guess.