FBI Director James Comey criticized Apple and Google yesterday for developing smartphone encryption so secure that law enforcement officials cannot easily gain access to information stored on the devices even when they have search warrants, the Washington Post reports. His comments were the most forceful yet from a top official but echo a chorus of denunciation from law enforcement officials nationwide. Police have said that the ability to search photos, messages and Web histories on smartphones is essential to solving serious crimes, including murder, child pornography and attempted terrorist attacks.
“There will come a day when it will matter a great deal to the lives of people . . . that we will be able to gain access” to such devices, Comey said. “I want to have that conversation [with companies responsible] before that day comes.” FBI officials have made initial contact with the two companies, which announced their new smartphone encryption initiatives last week. Comey said he could not understand why companies would “market something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law.” The Post says that, “the era of easy law enforcement access to smartphones may be drawing to a close as courts and tech companies erect new barriers to police searches of popular electronic devices.”