Holder says cellphone encryption will thwart law enforcement efforts

Outgoing Atty. Gen. Eric Holder speaks at the Voting Rights Brain Trust event in Washington.
(Molly Riley / Associated Press)

Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. added his voice Tuesday to law enforcement officials concerned about encryption methods used in new cellphones made by Apple and Google.

“We would hope that technology companies would be willing to work with us to ensure that law enforcement retains the ability, with court authorization, to lawfully obtain information in the course of an investigation, such as catching kidnappers and sexual predators,” Holder said in a speech at an international conference on online child sexual abuse.

Although he did not name the companies involved, he was apparently referring to the newest Apple operating system, iOS 8, which will allow individuals to encrypt their phones in a way that even Apple could not easily decode. Google has announced similar plans for its Android operating system.

“It is fully possible to permit law enforcement to do its job while still adequately protecting personal privacy,” Holder said.


“When a child is in danger, law enforcement needs to be able to take every legally available step to quickly find and protect the child and to stop those that abuse children. It is worrisome to see companies thwarting our ability to do so.”

Last week FBI Director James B. Comey was outspokenly critical of the new software, saying he could not understand why Google and Apple would “market something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law.”

The new devices are seen as a reaction to the public outrage over revelations by former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden about the NSA’s secret collection of Americans’ phone data.

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