During a meeting with Apple last month a Department of Justice official told company executives that if Apple maintained its new position to automatically encrypt all users’ iPhone data, a child would die.
The meeting between the government and Apple ended in a standoff, sources in attendance told The Wall Street Journal. Apple executives dismissed the DOJ’s claims as exaggerated and told the government there were a multitude of sources they could pursue for data related to investigations.
Apple and Google announced new default encryption standards for all customer data in September. In Apple’s case, not even the company will be able to access a user’s data without their password.
Law enforcement heads at all levels across the country — including Attorney General Eric Holder — have criticized Google and Apple since, with law enforcement reps arguing such standards will make it easier for criminals — especially pedophiles trading in child pornography — to evade arrest. (RELATED: Eric Holder: It’s ‘Worrisome’ That Apple And Google Are ‘Thwarting’ Law Enforcement By Encrypting User Data)
FBI Director James Comey has been the government’s most vocal critic of the changes, and earlier this month implied that locking law enforcement out of users’ phones constituted “acting above the law.” (RELATED: FBI Director: Apple, Google Acting ‘Above The Law’ By Locking Users’ Phones)
“[W]e have to find a way to help these companies understand what we need, why we need it, and how they can help, while still protecting privacy rights and providing network security and innovation,” Comey said last month about his new request that Congress update the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) to force companies to give the government direct access to users’ smartphones. (RELATED: FBI Asks Congress For Backdoor Access To All Cellphones For Surveillance)
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have already said there’s “zero chance” they’ll pass such a proposal, prompting the FBI to resort to closed-door meetings in Congress to try and convince representatives into considering the agency’s argument.
In a September letter Apple CEO Tim Cook explained the company’s decision was a deliberate step away from the perception that Apple caters to government surveillance requests for user data.
“Finally, I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services,” Cook wrote. “We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will.” (RELATED: Apple Will No Longer Unlock iPhones For Law Enforcement, With Or Without A Warrant)