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Lawmakers call for middle ground on law enforcement access to encryption

Grant Gross | April 20, 2016
Tech companies and law enforcement agencies need to find a compromise, House members say.

When Apple and other tech vendors held user encryption keys, there were no reports of major breaches, Cohen said. "Essentially, what happened since is, Apple solved a problem that doesn't exist," he said.

Apple and Google are making decisions on their own about law enforcement issues by enabling encryption by default on their smartphones, added Thomas Galati, chief of the Intelligence Bureau in the New York City Police Department.

Between October and March, the NYPD was locked out of more than 100 encrypted devices, including 67 Apple devices, used by criminal suspects in murders, rapes, and other cases, Galati said.

Law enforcement agencies are left in a "precarious position" not created by elected officials or U.S. law, he added. "Instead, it is created and controlled by corporations like Apple and Google, who have taken it upon themselves to decide who can access information in criminal investigations," Galati said.

But mandating encryption workarounds will lead to security problems for device users, said Apple's Sewell. "Our digital devices, indeed our entire digital lives, are increasingly and persistently under siege from attackers," he said. "This quest for access fuels a multibillion-dollar covert world of thieves, hackers, and crooks."

 

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