Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) released an open letter last week which detailed just how secure iOS 8 is. Thanks to the update cops will not be able to access data from locked phones, even with a search warrant, if the phone owner refuses to give up their pass code.
FBI’s concerns about Apple’s security
FBI Director James Comey said: “What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law.”
Perhaps the most inflammatory quotation on the matter came from the chief of detectives for Chicago’s police department. In an interview with the Washington Post, John J. Escalante claimed that “Apple will become the phone of choice for the pedophile. The average pedophile at this point is probably thinking, I’ve got to get an Apple phone.”
Why the outrage?
The main change in iOS 8 is the encryption of iMessage texts on the iPhone. Assuming that the messages are not stored on the unencrypted iCloud, they can only be accessed using the user’s pass code.
However the fact remains that the majority of iPhone users use iCloud, and iMessages are stored on the iCloud. It is hard to envisage a huge community of criminals hiding their messages by disabling the iCloud. Police also use Elcomsoft products which help them to access password-protected iPhones.
Despite the furor over the level of encryption, cellular carriers can still provide call and text logs to detectives, and cell towers can be used to locate suspects. Peter Eckersely, director of technology projects at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group based in San Francisco, claimed that “the reality is that if the FBI really wants to investigate someone, they have a spectacular arsenal of weapons.”
PR disaster or masterstroke?
Despite the heavy criticism from law enforcement, some commentators have lauded Apple’s reading of what consumers want from their phones. David Post of the Washington Post has argued that the fact that police officials have reacted so incredulously exposes their lack of understanding of the issue.
In the wake of the NSA and snooping revelations, it has been argued that Apple is giving customers protection from over-zealous surveillance, perhaps winning their trust and profiting as a result.