DOJ warns Apple: iPhone encryption will lead to a child dying

“The No. 2 official at the Justice Department recently warned top Apple executives that stronger encryption protections added to iPhones would lead to a horrific tragedy, such as a child dying, because police couldn’t access a suspect’s device, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday,” Dan Goodin reports for Ars Technica.

“The beefed up protections, Apple recently disclosed, mean that even when company officials are served with a court order, they will be unable to retrieve potentially crucial evidence such as photos, messages, or contacts stored on iPhones and iPads,” Goodin reports. “Instead, the data can be accessed only by people who know the passcode that serves as the encryption key.”

“Prior to changes introduced in iOS 8, Apple had the means to pull data off of a locked phone, and according to the WSJ, the company helped police do just that when it was served with a valid court order. Under the latest iOS version, the data can be recovered only by knowing the passcode. Passcodes that are sufficiently long and complex make it infeasible for Apple or anyone else to crack,” Goodin reports. “US Attorney General Eric Holder recently said it was ‘worrisome’ that tech companies were adding default encryption to consumer electronics. Apple CEO Tim Cook recently pushed back at a WSJ conference, saying ‘”Look, if law enforcement wants something, they should go to the user and get it. It’s not for me to do that.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As we wrote back in September:

Think of The Children™. Whenever you hear that line of horseshit, look for ulterior motives. Fear mongers: Those who use of fear, scare tactics, and emotional appeals in attempts to influence the opinions and actions of others towards some specific end.

United States Constitution, Amendment IV:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. – Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free. – Ronald Reagan, March 30, 1961

Visit the Apple-backed today.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Fred Mertz” and “Lynn Weiler” for the heads up.]


  1. The culture of mass data collection has pervaded all aspects of our government. It sounds to me as if they have forgotten Jefferson’s words, that “goverments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Perhaps Apple’s position is pushback against massive secret government overreach. That’s not Apple’s fault. I like Tim Cook’s stance. If you want something, get a warrant and get it from the suspect.

  2. Hey, DOJ Official #2 (appropriately named, right?) –

    Phone encryption won’t endanger anyone. A person abducting a child might endanger someone. Someone taking a gun into a classroom might endanger someone, but it will have nothing to do with their data being encrypted. (It isn’t the gun’s fault, either!) And my spoon didn’t make me fat – the food I stuff in my face isn’t to blame either – I made me fat with the food I stuffed in my face with my spoon. The encryption of data on my phone certainly isn’t to blame.

    Number 2, indeed. Excuse me while I go to the restroom.

    1. Actually, had just one of the administrators at Sandy Hook been carrying a concealed firearm the story might be quite a bit different. As it was, they confronted the shooter with bare hands and a classroom full of children died.

  3. Actually, I don’t mind if Apple is forced to open up an iPhone WHEN THEY HAVE A COURT ORDERED WARRANT.

    The problem was that they not only want to search the phone without a warrant but that they also want to do keep the unwarranted search a complete secret from everyone.

  4. In theory, they have a point: this kind of data should be accessible so that law enforcement can access it when they have a warrant. But in reality, Apple cannot do that, because of known government abuses of citizens’ right to privacy through mass data collection. The reality is, thorough encryption technology is now a requirement to protect people’s basic right to privacy.

    The DOJ and everyone else complicit with the expansion of the surveillance state should have thought about this “dying child” before they ripped apart the Fourth Amendment. They have no one but themselves to blame for creating a reality where full data encryption is a necessity.

    If they want Apple to ease their encryption standards, the DOJ must first overhaul the government’s information gathering practices, and make it a system with oversights, accountability, in line with in both the letter and spirit of the Fourth Amendment. Only then would it be possible for Apple to ease their encryption standards without putting people’s rights in jeopardy.

  5. Is is just me or is everyone quoting the 4th amendment and only paying attention to the first clause? As MDN quotes “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, [[but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.]]”.. The second clause is what is being prevented by Apple and now Google by having such secure systems.. Also possibly the core of the argument for misuse of said secure systems/technology with no recourse for legal authorities to attain evidence because the suspect/perpetrator is the only one able to access the device data. Might even be construed as obstruction of justice if you want to spin it that far.

    1. You know, forcefully taking fingerprints has been ruled to be constitutional. Some smart guy should be able to figure out how to take a fingerprint with a material that could then be used to unlock the phone with Touch ID. The bigger problem would be if the phone were only locked with a pass code. You cannot force the person to disclose his pass code. Any suggestions on how to open a phone under those circumstances, assuming they had a warrant?

      I still thing it’s a huge stretch to suggest a child might die if law enforcement can’t access phone data, unless they’re out sweeping everyone’s data and looking it over to see if anyone is headed off to do something nefarious, and that seems unlikely.

      Oh, what’s that? I forgot. That is exactly what they want to do. Spy on everyone to prevent crime before it happens.Those guys have watched Minority Report too many times.

  6. I don’t post often but can’t help myself at times. This statement coming from the DOJ that continues to catch and release illegal aliens, some are felons, some are not, only to be caught again after vehicle homicide or flat out murder. The DOJ under Eric Holder have become shameless and have no limits to their own hypocrisy.

    1. “Why is the story about Apple?” — two possible reasons: (1) Other smartphone vendors caved to their demands, and Apple hasn’t; (2) cynical headline-mongering by the Feds is now accepted practice in this sorry excuse for a policy-addled administration.

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