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Obama administration's encryption concerns meant to start a debate

Grant Gross | March 13, 2015
U.S. President Barack Obama's administration still believes in the use of encryption to protect digital information, even after top officials have questioned how law enforcement agencies will get access to data on encrypted devices, a White House advisor said.

Even without access to encrypted smartphone data, U.S. police agencies have many ways to track suspects, including email and telephone metadata, airplanes that mimic cell towers and license plate readers, panelists said.

"The notion of the government going dark I don't think is accurate," said Bruce Heiman, a lawyer focused on U.S. policy and regulations with the K&L Gates law firm. "The government is awash in data."

Government agencies have a lot of "tools" to gain access to information they want, added David O'Neil, a partner in the Debevoise and Plimpton law firm and a former head of the criminal division in the U.S Department of Justice. Law enforcement agencies so far haven't publicly identified a criminal or terrorism case that fell apart because of a lack of access to encrypted data, he said.

"I am confident that [encryption] won't be a deal breaker for law enforcement," he added.

 

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