When Apple announced Touch ID, a fingerprint-scanning feature, on the iPhone 5S, concerns over privacy and identity tracking began to brew. Recently, it was found from the National Security Agency (NSA) leaks that the U.S. government is collecting data from Internet companies and telecommunications lines.
In order to restore the lost faith of the customers, the company built its new phone with stronger encryption as the most important feature.
Predictably, it’s not sitting well with intelligence and security agencies who are now blasting Apple and Google for locking law-enforcement authorities out of phones – even when they have valid search warrants.
FBI Director James Comey is one of the first government officials to voice criticism.
"I am a huge believer in the rule of law, but I also believe that no one in this country is beyond the law," he told reporters at FBI headquarters in Washington.
"What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law."
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iPhone privacy alarm sounded off last year in December when leaked documents shared by security researcher Jacob Appelbaum and German magazine Der Spiegel, revealed the NSA has a 100 percent success rate when it comes to planting spyware into iOS devices.
Although Apple refuted the claims, saying it never worked with the U.S. spy agency and was unaware of efforts to target its smartphones, customers remained suspicious.
Consequently, the company had to develop forms of smartphone encryption so secure that government officials might not be able to easily gain access to information stored on the devices.
Comey pointed out while stricter coding may be beneficial for individual privacy, it could also be used by terrorists to store their data and evade police.
"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," he said.
While Comey’s argument with reference to terrorism adds up, one can’t help but blame the authorities’ old ways of snooping for such desperate encryption methods.
Maybe it’s time the government together with Silicon Valley tech giants found a way to protect both individual privacy and national security.