Stop smartphone encryption cries FBI chief Comey

Stop smartphone encryption cries FBI chief Comey
FBI chief James Comey spoke at a gathering at the Brookings Institution on Thursday, and reiterated his feelings about smartphone encryption. It is a subject that the top gun at the FBI says "threatens to lead all of us to a very dark place." On one hand, we have smartphone users desiring more privacy, especially in light of the rumored Snowden disclosures about the NSA demanding information from carriers and manufacturers. On the other hand, there is law enforcement, claiming that they need to be able to access this stream of information in order to do the job that the public expects it to.

Comey laments the added security that iOS and Android devices have, or will soon have. This new focus on security will mean that both companies won't be able to unlock phones and tablets to turn over pictures, documents, email and recordings. He is also up in arms about encryption. While the FBI chief admits that encryption is a valid selling point aimed at smartphone users, he sees it as a detriment to law-enforcement.

Comey rejects the notion that the FBI should be happy just to receive the metadata that includes phone numbers and location data. The FBI chief says that without knowing the content of these conversations, the information supplied by the metadata might not be enough to corral a criminal. He gave an example about how unencrypted information taken out of two cellphones belonging to a predator, helped find him guilty of murdering a 12 year-old boy. The convicted murderer is now on death row.


There are other examples given by Comey, but his point was made. And in an effort to try to get smartphone users to come over to his side, he pointed out that unencrypted information pulled from a handset, can also help prove someone innocent when the evidence points to his conviction. Comey says that the pendulum has gone too far in one direction post-Snowden, and he is merely trying to help the FBI protect both liberty and security.

source: FBI via BGR

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41 Comments

1. dontneedtoknow

Posts: 158; Member since: Feb 17, 2014

I do agree with him!

6. Droid_X_Doug

Posts: 5993; Member since: Dec 22, 2010

Before you start agreeing too much with Comey, ponder this - Comey had no response for how to stop bad actors (hackers, identity thieves, etc.) from hacking into smartphones absent strong encryption. Further, Uncle Samuel has too much of a history of taking personal information without a warrant. Comey is just whining because he is missing the good ole days when the smartphones were an open book. Those days are over and he needs to get used to it. BTW, there are still zero day hacks that are available to the federales. Comey is just wanting to have complete unfettered access that they had before Snowden spilled the beans.

18. Jobayer

Posts: 167; Member since: Feb 22, 2013

I would have agreed to him , but it's their fault in the first place that it has come to this. because they choose mass spying ,and so we choose encryption .

44. AstronautJones

Posts: 305; Member since: Aug 01, 2012

EXACTLY!. This strong encryption is a direct result of government OVERstepping reasonable limits.

2. fzacek

Posts: 2486; Member since: Jan 26, 2014

I think they just want to make it easier for themselves to get our personal information...

3. bendgate unregistered

Yep. Encryption will make them do more work to get personal data.

17. techspace

Posts: 1037; Member since: Sep 03, 2012

They already have backdoor access to google/windows/apple devices. Android already has the option to encrypt the device, it didn't prevent them from snooping on us.

19. techspace

Posts: 1037; Member since: Sep 03, 2012

*google/MS/apple*

29. Awalker

Posts: 1962; Member since: Aug 15, 2013

How many Android users do you think have encrypted their data? It's not front and center so most people probably haven't done it.

31. techspace

Posts: 1037; Member since: Sep 03, 2012

But if there is an option to prevent snooping,the criminals will definitely use it so what's the point? Most of the android users don't use it today but the ones who should be snooped must be using it already The truth is that encryption doesn't prevent them from snooping on us...they still have the backdoor access and maybe even the decryption algorithms. .

4. cboy83

Posts: 10; Member since: May 21, 2014

Question can't they access back doors??

7. Droid_X_Doug

Posts: 5993; Member since: Dec 22, 2010

That is what Comey is whining about. As if there aren't any zero day back doors.

27. The-Sailor-Man

Posts: 1095; Member since: Mar 25, 2014

Of course they have access to the back doors. And US have TOTAL dominance on controlling ppl's data of THE WHOLE WORLD. Often used not only for fighting terrorists. That is THE REAL REASON why all the propaganda is against Samsung!!!!!(and that's why they killed Nokia) All the data of all the ppl in the World now, is in the hands of US companies that can NOT refuse to give free back doors to NSA, FBI or such.(Windows, Google, Android, Chrome, iOS , OS X, Facebook, YouTube, Tweeter...) All the information is NOT ONLY for preventing terrorist attacks , but also to control economics and politics. THEY ARE SCARED TO DEATH, that Samsung might make ONE DAY parallel services , and they must have to ask Samsung LEGAL WAY to give them information.

5. sriuslywtf

Posts: 297; Member since: Jul 09, 2013

FBI and others need to have super user accounts to gain access on anyones smart phone but with the consent of the network provider and the user. A warrant to search must also be on hand prior doing so. If your not doing anything wrong, why would you be so afraid if they search it?

8. Droid_X_Doug

Posts: 5993; Member since: Dec 22, 2010

If the FBI has a super user account, what makes you think that a bad actor wouldn't find a way to exploit the super user account? Every month, MS releases patches for zero day hacks that are effectively super user accounts, so there are still access points, even with strong encryption.

10. sriuslywtf

Posts: 297; Member since: Jul 09, 2013

Bad actors can and will exploit such feature, but to prevent that, MS, Apple and Google should prevent that. What I wanted to say was that this "super user account" will not be used by Feds if theres no warrant. Super user account that will be kept by the OS developer itself and will only be use by Feds or anyone whos authorize to do so if warrant is on hand. By the way, Bad actors play major roles in challenging security. A game of Cat and Mouse per se.

11. Derekjeter

Posts: 1455; Member since: Oct 27, 2011

Because it's my personal data, screw the FBI, CIA, cops and any other law enforcement who thinks they can have our personal life.

23. headlly36

Posts: 1; Member since: Oct 18, 2014

it is my privacy,

33. Augustine

Posts: 1043; Member since: Sep 28, 2013

Yes, a privacy that even criminals have a right to. If the FBI has probable cause, they can get a court order as in the rest of the civilized world.

9. almostdone

Posts: 423; Member since: Sep 25, 2012

Although I sympathise in what he is saying. I believe having the power to snoop into anyone’s private life without a warrant or even suspicion is a breach of our freedom. How can we put all our trust in the government, the police or FBI? How do we know for sure none of these powers will be abused especially when there has been corruption in the past? What’s wrong with old school detective work? Innocent until proven guilty.

13. sriuslywtf

Posts: 297; Member since: Jul 09, 2013

Agreed. There should be standard procedure in accessing one's privacy. BTW, old school detective work might need an upgrade with fast pace techs were now enjoying. You know, baddies might also use this techs for bombs, espionage and other illegal stuffs.

14. almostdone

Posts: 423; Member since: Sep 25, 2012

I know time has moved on. I just meant they do not necessary need to use this snooping method to catch the criminals or to prevent crimes. There have always been other techniques without taking so much freedom away. What gets to me though how effective is this really? I mean the sophisticated criminals like terror attacks etc are well aware of what the law enforcement methods and probably avoid the usual cell phone tech. They know they are easily snooped upon.

12. Augustine

Posts: 1043; Member since: Sep 28, 2013

"Fokk you, FBI," cry we the people.

15. platformwars

Posts: 86; Member since: Sep 14, 2012

I dont think there's any problem with the authorities checking my data if i havent dont anything wrong.. it is important for the authorities to check this as phones normally give people away.. either you're doing something wrong.. or you should have no problem with it.. I know the idea seems wrong.. but if you look at the big picture.. i think its important.. just my opinion..

16. sriuslywtf

Posts: 297; Member since: Jul 09, 2013

Agreed with you 100% brother.

21. Benoit

Posts: 57; Member since: Oct 16, 2014

well, until they deem that being a political opponent is wrong, or that because you belong to a religious or ethnic group you may pose a security threat and thus you have to be arbitrary spied on. What if, for example, an official decides that you being a black person in Ferguson means you are a threat to national security because you may go out to demonstrate against the police? The question is: can you trust those agencies? We already discovered that they used unconstitutional mass spying, on their people as well as on foreign ones, that they spied on the Muslim community in New York just because some official must have believed that this religion was a threat. They also used it to steal technological secrets, or even to spy on political leaders from allied countries. So do you trust them to only use this technology to protect you? By accepting that you are allowing them to use fear to make you willingly give up some of your rights. Don't forget that one you gave them up, you have to fight hard to fight to get them back. I think since the terrorism threat became more tangible (i'll speak for the US and Europa), a part of the population is ready to accept many things for the sake of security, even if the sentiment of being protected is mainly illusionary. You can turn back to some recent history to see what happened with such practices: there was the Stasi in east Germany just 25 years ago, arbitrary spying on political opponents, intellectuals, religious leaders, ... This still exist in countries like Russia, China - were, for instance, some artists who talked about the Tienanmen events were arrested and sent to jail in the past weeks - and many others. The second question should then be: would it be efficient? Do you think that if, for example, smartphone encryption was not allowed, that would enable the authorities to catch, let's say, terrorists? The only people who may fall because of that are the normal people, you and me, who don't take security too seriously, because, you know, we don't feel like we have anything to hide. But won't people who do have something to hide still find a way to hide stuff ?

25. kanagadeepan

Posts: 1219; Member since: Jan 24, 2012

People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both -- Benjamin Franklin...

28. The-Sailor-Man

Posts: 1095; Member since: Mar 25, 2014

Agree if they fight terrorist and crime . But often they may use it to serve someone's economical interest stealing know-how , or collect information to control the politic in some EU countries. SO DON'T BE FOOL, TO LET THEM DIG WITHOUT LEGAL WARRANT.

34. Augustine

Posts: 1043; Member since: Sep 28, 2013

If you haven't done anything wrong, then the authorities have no permission by the law of the land to check your data. In more civilized countries, there is such a thing a due process and the presumption of innocence.

37. The-Sailor-Man

Posts: 1095; Member since: Mar 25, 2014

Augustine , don't be naïve. The NSA and FBI often use those back doors even if don't have legal permission. There are enough evidences , and not with the reason to fight terrorism or crime only. That's why they have killed Nokia and fight Samsung- because don't want something to stay on their way, so to ask for permission .

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