On Thursday Sept. 25, FBI director told reporters that he was “very concerned” by steps that tech companies were making to make user data unavailable to law enforcement even if a legal warrant was issued. His remarks came on the heels of Apple’s announcement that iOS 8 couldn’t help even if it wanted to comply.
“Unlike our competitors, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data,” the company said. “So it’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8.”
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This enraged Comey and led to a rant that almost suggested that Apple was guilty of kidnapping.
“I like and believe very much that we should have to obtain a warrant from an independent judge to be able to take the content of anyone’s closet or their smart phone,” Comey said in September. “The notion that someone would market a closet that could never be opened — even if it involves a case involving a child kidnapper and a court order — to me does not make any sense.”
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Today’s speech of FBI Chief Comey
Today, in a speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington, Comey called on Congress to update the 20-year-old Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act. That law does not require companies to give direct access to their customers communications. The FBI director believes that it needs an update, and it needs one fast. This was Comey’s first speech about law enforcement since taking the job of director. Quite rightfully(?), Comey instead chose to visit nearly each of the 56 field offices the FBI has nationwide.
“Unfortunately, the law hasn’t kept pace with technology, and this disconnect has created a significant public safety problem,” he said in his speech today.
“Those charged with protecting our people aren’t always able to access the evidence we need to prosecute crime and prevent terrorism, even with lawful authority,” he said. “We have the legal authority to intercept and access communications and information pursuant to court order, but we often lack the technical ability to do so.”
While one can see his frustration, he seems oblivious to the fact that the Snowden revelations angered and concerned millions with good reason. Additionally, it seems the director fails to realize that company’s are in the business of making money not being the puppets of law enforcement.
And the responses
Apple didn’t immediately comment on the speech but a Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG) spokesman told reporters to review the company’s previous statement on encryption. “People previously used safes and combination locks to keep their information secure — now they use encryption,” the company said in the statement. “It’s why we have worked hard to provide this added security for our users.”
And no speech like this would be complete without a response from the American Civil Liberties Union, which came “fast and furious.” (Pun intended)
“Federal law explicitly protects the right of companies to add encryption with no backdoors,” Laura W. Murphy, director of the group’s Washington legislative office, said in a written statement. “Whether the F.B.I. calls it a front door or a backdoor, any effort by the F.B.I. to weaken encryption leaves our highly personal information and our business information vulnerable to hacking by foreign governments and criminals.”
Either way, good luck with getting Congress to do anything after the mid-term elections Director Comey.