Smartphone encryption could lead to death of a child, government fights back

The U.S. government is fighting back against new encryption technologies on smartphones made by Apple and those using Google's latest version of Android. With a strongly worded argument, an official at the U.S. Department of Justice plainly stated that without access to a suspect's phone, a child could die in cases such as kidnapping.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the tech giants and the DOJ are at a standoff on smartphone encryption:

New encryption technology that renders locked [smartphones] impervious to law enforcement would lead to tragedy. A child would die, he said, because police wouldn't be able to scour a suspect's phone, according to people who attended the meeting.

A meeting between Apple and the government reportedly ended with Apple calling the dead child scenario inflammatory. Apple execs say that law enforcement officials could obtain data elsewhere, such as through wireless carriers.

But law-enforcement officials see it as a move in the wrong direction. The new encryption will make it much harder for the police, even with a court order, to look into a phone for messages, photos, appointments or contact lists, they say. Even Apple itself, if served with a court order, won't have the key to decipher information encrypted on its iPhones.

Most recently, technology companies are uniting in a fight to protect their customers' privacy against government monitoring and surveillance. An NSA reform bill recently failed in the U.S. Senate was supported by tech giants including Apple, Google, and Yahoo. Wireless carrier AT&T is challenging the courts on the legal framework used to collect cell phone data in a separate battle and urged the courts to provide new guidance in a new technology age. And social network giant Facebook had announced that its WhatsApp messaging service is using end-to-end encryption on phones and Facebook wouldn't be able to decrypt messages for the government.

Source: WSJ