The FBI has been in talks with Apple and Google about the way the technology companies are marketing the privacy features in their smartphones, according to FBI Director James Comey (via The Huffington Post). Comey says that he is concerned that the two companies are “marketing something expressly to allow people to place themselves above the law.”
Comey’s remarks come following both privacy changes introduced with iOS 8 and a new privacy site that Apple introduced last week, explaining that the company has altered the way encryption works in iOS 8. Apple no longer stores the encryption keys for devices in iOS 8, making it impossible for it to unlock content on devices under police request.
“Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access your data,” reads its new privacy site. “So it’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8.”
Shortly after Apple announced the encryption changes to iOS 8, Google announced that the next generation of Android, set to be released next month, will also encrypt data by default, providing the same encryption protections to its smartphones that a passcode provides to iPhones.
According to Comey, though he understands the need for privacy, he believes government access to electronic devices is necessary in some cases.
“I like and believe very much that we should have to obtain a warrant from an independent judge to be able to take the content of anyone’s closet or their smart phone,” he said. “The notion that someone would market a closet that could never be opened — even if it involves a case involving a child kidnapper and a court order — to me does not make any sense.”
He goes on to say that one day, it may matter “a great, great deal” that the government be able to infiltrate “a kidnapper’s or a terrorist or a criminal’s device.” His goal, he says, is to have a “good conversation” in the country “before that day comes.”
The exact nature of the talks between FBI officials and Apple and Google remains unknown, with Comey only stating that the discussion has been over the “marketing of their devices.”
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