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FBI Chief Scolds Apple and Google Over New Smartphone Encryption

James Comey says privacy innovations on smartphones could put lives at risk if investigators can't get quick access to data.
Image: Apple iPhone
The FBI has reportedly been talking with Apple and Google about the way companies are marketing the privacy features in their smartphones.ROBYN BECK / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

The FBI director on Thursday criticized the decision by Apple and Google to encrypt smartphones data so it can be inaccessible to law enforcement, even with a court order. James Comey told reporters at FBI headquarters that U.S. officials are in talks with the two companies. "What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to hold themselves beyond the law," Comey said. He cited child-kidnapping and terrorism cases as two examples of situations where quick access by authorities to information on cellphones can save lives.

Both Apple and Google announced last week that their new operating systems will be encrypted by default. Law enforcement officials could still intercept conversations but might not be able to access call data, contacts, photos and email stored on the phone. Even under the new policies, law enforcement could still access a person's cellphone data that has been backed up to the the cloud. They could also still retrieve real-time phone records and logs of text messages to see whom a suspect was calling or texting, and they could still obtain wiretaps to eavesdrop on all calls made with the phones.



— The Associated Press