Americans Split On If Police Should Be Able To Force You To Unlock Your Phones

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Eric Lieberman Managing Editor
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Americans are divided on the issue of whether law enforcement should be able to gain access to encrypted communications on electronic devices.

Forty-six percent of people believe that the government should be able to access communications which are encrypted when investigating crimes, according to a study released Thursday by the Pew Research Center. On the contrary, 44 percent of people answered the opposite, saying that tech companies should be able to install and employ encryption mechanisms that are effectively impervious to law enforcement. (RELATED: Feds Raid Home, Demand Fingerprints To Unlock Phones)

Encryption is the process of transforming data into complex codes to automatically lock the information and essentially obstruct unauthorized access.

The battle over encryption materialized after the San Bernardino terrorist attacks December 2, 2015 that left 14 dead and 22 severely injured. The FBI sought to unlock the iPhone of Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the perpetrators. But after being initially unable to do so, the FBI requested, and then demanded, that Apple — the manufacturer of the iPhone — unlock Farook’s mobile device. (RELATED: Turkey Is Reportedly Asking Apple’s Help In Unlocking iPhone Of Russian Ambassador’s Killer)

Apple CEO Tim Cook argued in a letter to customers that creating software for a back door is “too dangerous to create.”

“The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control,” Cook continued.

At the time, 51 percent of people thought that Apple should unlock the iPhone, 38 percent of people felt that Apple should not, and 11 percent were unsure, according to another Pew survey. (RELATED: Orlando Shooting Sets Up Another Potential Battle Between FBI, Tech Giant)

The modest, yet noteworthy, shift in opinion perhaps shows that in the past year, more people are understanding the nuances of encryption and how ubiquitous it is in the tech world.

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