NY Times Op-Ed calls for Apple to decrypt iPhones for law enforcement

“Last September, Apple and Google, whose operating systems are used in 96 percent of smartphones worldwide, announced that they had re-engineered their software with ‘full-disk’ encryption, and could no longer unlock their own products as a result,” Cyrus R. Vance Jr., François Molins, Adrian Leppard and Javier Zaragoza write for The New York Times.

MacDailyNews Take: To be clear: As usual, Apple did this first and, as usual, Google chimed in “me too” in order to not look bad, even though it’ll take them years to roll it out, if they ever do, while virtually every Apple iOS user already has it.

“According to Apple’s website: ‘On devices running iOS 8.0 … Apple will not perform iOS data extractions in response to government search warrants because the files to be extracted are protected by an encryption key that is tied to the user’s passcode, which Apple does not possess,'” Vance Jr., Molins, Leppard and Zaragoza write. “Now, on behalf of crime victims the world over, we are asking whether this encryption is truly worth the cost.”

“Between October and June, 74 iPhones running the iOS 8 operating system could not be accessed by investigators for the Manhattan district attorney’s office — despite judicial warrants to search the devices,” Vance Jr., Molins, Leppard and Zaragoza write. “The investigations that were disrupted include the attempted murder of three individuals, the repeated sexual abuse of a child, a continuing sex trafficking ring and numerous assaults and robberies.”

More blah, blah, blah here.

MacDailyNews Take: Those in government and government agencies who would ignore the U.S. Constitution are getting ever more desperate.

First they tried the “think of the children” horseshit, then they moved on to legal threats. Now, out-of-the-box thinkers that they are, they’re right back to the “think of the children” horseshit.

As we wrote back in September 2014:

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.

Here’s an idea: The U.S. federal government should adhere to the U.S. Constitution and governments everywhere should respect their citizen’s rights.

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.United States Constitution, Amendment IV

Because the U.S. government spooks trampled all over the U.S. Constitution, constantly demanding that Apple grant access to customers devices, Apple decided to remove themselves for the equation. And so, the government reaps what it hath sown. We guess law enforcement will have to do some old-fashioned leg work if they want to crack cases.

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 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

Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death! – Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775

Visit the Apple-backed reformgovernmentsurveillance.com today.

A message from Tim Cook about Apple’s commitment to your privacy.

At Apple, your trust means everything to us. That’s why we respect your privacy and protect it with strong encryption, plus strict policies that govern how all data is handled.

Security and privacy are fundamental to the design of all our hardware, software, and services, including iCloud and new services like Apple Pay. And we continue to make improvements. Two-step verification, which we encourage all our customers to use, in addition to protecting your Apple ID account information, now also protects all of the data you store and keep up to date with iCloud.

We believe in telling you up front exactly what’s going to happen to your personal information and asking for your permission before you share it with us. And if you change your mind later, we make it easy to stop sharing with us. Every Apple product is designed around those principles. When we do ask to use your data, it’s to provide you with a better user experience.

We’re publishing this website to explain how we handle your personal information, what we do and don’t collect, and why. We’re going to make sure you get updates here about privacy at Apple at least once a year and whenever there are significant changes to our policies.

A few years ago, users of Internet services began to realize that when an online service is free, you’re not the customer. You’re the product. But at Apple, we believe a great customer experience shouldn’t come at the expense of your privacy.

Our business model is very straightforward: We sell great products. We don’t build a profile based on your email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers. We don’t “monetize” the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. And we don’t read your email or your messages to get information to market to you. Our software and services are designed to make our devices better. Plain and simple.

One very small part of our business does serve advertisers, and that’s iAd. We built an advertising network because some app developers depend on that business model, and we want to support them as well as a free iTunes Radio service. iAd sticks to the same privacy policy that applies to every other Apple product. It doesn’t get data from Health and HomeKit, Maps, Siri, iMessage, your call history, or any iCloud service like Contacts or Mail, and you can always just opt out altogether.

Finally, I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will.

Our commitment to protecting your privacy comes from a deep respect for our customers. We know that your trust doesn’t come easy. That’s why we have and always will work as hard as we can to earn and keep it.


Obama administration war against Apple just got uglier – July 31, 2015
Edward Snowden: Apple is a privacy pioneer – June 5, 2015
U.S. Senate blocks measures to extend so-called Patriot Act; NSA’s bulk collection of phone records in jeopardy – May 23, 2015
Rand Paul commandeers U.S. Senate to protest so-called Patriot Act, government intrusion on Americans’ privacy – May 20, 2015
Apple, others urge Obama to reject any proposal for smartphone backdoors – May 19, 2015
U.S. appeals court rules NSA bulk collection of phone data illegal – May 7, 2015
In open letter to Obama, Apple, Google, others urge Patriot Act not be renewed – March 26, 2015
Apple’s iOS encryption has ‘petrified’ the U.S. administration, governments around the world – March 19, 2015
Obama criticizes China’s demands for U.S. tech firms to hand over encryption keys, install backdoors – March 3, 2015
Apple CEO Tim Cook advocates privacy, says terrorists should be ‘eliminated’ – February 27, 2015
Apple’s Tim Cook warns of ‘dire consequences’ of sacrificing privacy for security – February 13, 2015
DOJ warns Apple: iPhone encryption will lead to a child dying – November 19, 2014
Apple’s iPhone encryption is a godsend, even if government snoops and cops hate it – October 8, 2014
Short-timer U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder blasts Apple for protecting users’ privacy against government overreach – September 30, 2014
FBI blasts Apple for protective users’ privacy by locking government, police out of iPhones and iPads – September 25, 2014
Apple thinks different about privacy – September 23, 2014
Me-too Google: Uh, okay, we’ll do default encryption like Apple, too (it’ll just take several years to roll out) – September 18, 2014
Apple will no longer unlock most iPhones, iPads for government, police – even with search warrants – September 18, 2014
Apple CEO Tim Cook ups privacy to new level, takes direct swipe at Google – September 18, 2014
A message from Tim Cook about Apple’s commitment to your privacy – September 18, 2014
Apple will no longer unlock most iPhones, iPads for police, even with search warrants – September 18, 2014
Would you trade privacy for national security? Most Americans wouldn’t – August 6, 2014
Apple begins encrypting iCloud email sent between providers – July 15, 2014
Obama administration demands master encryption keys from firms in order to conduct electronic surveillance against Internet users – July 24, 2013
U.S. NSA seeks to build quantum computer to crack most types of encryption – January 3, 2014
Apple, Google, others call for government surveillance reform – December 9, 2013
Apple’s iMessage encryption trips up U.S. feds’ surveillance – April 4, 2013


    1. We know that cops and judges and Mayors can be corrupt, But that does not matter. Only making their jobs easier matters.

      While I believe there is a possible middle ground here, its not like this. Before I allow my “secrets” to be made available, I want every mayor, governor, president and all of congress to have their phones made so every citizen can listen in. So we can see every message. So we can snoop all we want.

      Cause you know “we” are all good people and will not look unless there is a crime going on, right? So all these “good” government people will not mind us having this access, right??

      1. If Apple’s iPhones had a back door, where would Hillary & friends get their secret emails which she needs? Uh Oh.

        What smart phone would be used by any F500 company if it was known back doors were in the iPhone?

        Hey, Moto can start making their flip phones again!

    2. Murder victims were not killed by Apple’s encryption of their products. This is very simple, users deserve privacy of their data and a few tragic cases of violence towards people does not justify compromising the privacy of hundreds of millions of users.

  1. The NYT have been boot-licking sycophants for big government ever since Walter Duranty got a Pulitzer prize for shitting Stalin’s party line onto their pages.


  2. “Apple will not perform iOS data extractions in response to government search warrants because the files to be extracted are protected by an encryption key that is tied to the user’s passcode, which Apple does not possess”.. I guess the question is if Apple is provided the user’s passcode they CAN and will perform an iOS data extraction in response to a search warrant?

    1. Your point/question is moot. If law enforcement has the passcode, there is no reason for Apple to decrypt anything, as the law enforcement agency already has full access.

      1. I have noted that the passcode is tied to the encryption key and is not the encryption key itself. As such there could be other encryption processes in place for which decryption can only be performed by Apple in the OS beyond the permissions a user may have on the device. Law enforcement also has limited resources so if Apple’s only reason for not complying is a user’s passcode, would it not be reasonable for Apple to be required provide any needed assistance given the passcode?

        1. Yes, Apple doesn’t have the passcode and neither do the authorities wanting Apple do decrypt the data on the iOS devices. Xennes1170, it is literally an impossible task they are asking Apple to do. Unless the owner of the device is willing to divulge his personal passcode, or to supply his fingerprint if the device has not been turned off in 48 hours, then there is no way ANYONE can decipher those data in any time in which this universe would still be existing. The passcode is entangled with the devices UUID which is then used for the key for the encryption. That key is a very large key. . .

          Since Apple allows you to use every one of the characters accessible from the keyboard and your passcode can be 256 characters in size, your key can be ridiculously large.

          The number of years for just a 16 character passcode after being entangled with the UUID for a supercomputer comparing 50,000 potential passcodes codes every second, scanning the data for intelligible data and then moving on to the next (i.e. brute force), is 5.26 Billion vigintillion (10^195) years! Now it’s possible, if they were VERY lucky, they could hit your passcode next week, but the odds are so extremely low as to be on the level of a grain of ordinary sand spontaneously fissioning and exploding like an Atom bomb. Speed up your supercomputer by a billion times faster. . . and you only drop nine zeros from the number of years. . . making it 10^186 years. . . an insignificant difference for the value of your data.

          1. I’m not sure if you are deliberately misunderstanding me.. If you read my post before the one you replied to you would see that I fixed the condition of the user passcode having been acquired by the authorities and thus available for Apple to use to retrieve any required information. My question then is since Apple states the reason they are unable to comply with assistance in decryption requests is that they don’t have the user passcode and now it and the device is available to them will they comply or refuse the request to assist the proper authorities in retrieving any needed information?

            1. Why would authorities need anyone’s assistance to access data on an iPhone if they already have the passcode? With it, they simply unlock the device.

            2. There may be areas of the phone that authorities do not have the knowledge to access simply because they don’t know it is there to be searched.. This is similar to having the assistance of the guy who did the blueprints of a building. Just because you now have the key doesn’t mean you know where all the standard nooks and crannies are.

            3. I’m also not sure if you are deliberately misunderstanding… If the bad guys (i.e., U.S. or State Gov) HAVE the user passcode AND the device, they don’t NEED Apple’s assistance. They can just log in to the device as the user and read anything they want.

              If the bad guys DON’T have BOTH the device AND the user passcode, hopefully the encryption function is one-way AND device-dependent and there is no feasible way for ANYONE (including Apple) to decrypt the information, even if it is stored on Apple servers.

              The whole point of implementing secure device encryption is so that Apple can honestly tell the bad guys “We CAN’T decrypt the user’s data!”

  3. It would be important to note that this editorial was not written by the editors of the NYTimes but rather was submitted by the four authors, as many folks have done, and printed on the OpEd (Opposite the Editorials) page. It would also be important to note that only one of the authors has any reason to defend the Constitution of the USA. The other three authors are from France, the UK and Spain.

    1. “Op” as in “Opinion”; the meaning has drifted from the original “opposite the editorial” meaning. In this case, an opinion written by a writer given credit for the piece, other than part of the editorial staff, or a letter from the paper’s readership.

    2. This is the most important paragraph to read: “Cyrus R. Vance Jr. is the Manhattan district attorney. François Molins is the Paris chief prosecutor. Adrian Leppard is the commissioner of the City of London Police. Javier Zaragoza is the chief prosecutor of the High Court of Spain.”

      It explains the whole op-ed piece.

      Law enforcement doesn’t understand why we still have to respect the fourth amendment (or the equivalent in UK, Spain, France) in the digital age.

      I’m just surprised the New York Times gave them the platform to advocate for the undermining of the foundational elements of democracy and the operation of a free press.

  4. If law enforcement has a warrant to search someone’s phone, they should present that warrant to the owner of the phone. If the person refuses to unlock the phone, then they can be prosecuted for obstruction of justice. Apple has nothing to do with the process.

    1. 5th amendment. It would be nice if you could prosecute for obstruction of justice, and it has happened before, but the penalty for such is likely far less than the crime being covered up.

      In theory you could negotiate to unlock your phone. I could give you my code under the condition of immunity.

          1. Clever, indeed! So, if law enforcement wants access to the phone and the phone hasn’t been restarted, they should legally be able to compel the user to use fingerprint to unlock it (this assuming they show proper warrant)?

            Further, in order for someone to avoid being legally required to unlock the phone in order for law enforcement to conduct search (with that warrant), someone would have to quickly reboot it? That way, they would be required to enter that passcode, which would then be interpreted as testifying against oneself?

        1. Providing evidence and testifying against yourself are two different things. People are presented with warrants all the time that require they hand over possible evidence. Evidence that could be used against them. Not providing such evidence and/or destroying it, is a crime.

          1. Right! (as I wrote above, yesterday). It seems that one could interpret typing the passcode as testifying against oneself, which would be under the protection of that 5th amendment. Meanwhile, refusing to unlock the phone with a fingerprint would presumably be obstructing justice (for refusing to turn over evidence, or destroying evidence).

            1. Not sure the self-incrimination part of the 5th applies. It seems that part of the 5th amendment protects against self-incrimination based on the phrase/word/information itself and does not appear to protect against incriminating evidence that is uncovered using that phrase/word/information as a key. (e.g. H387_iG vs “I killed Marcus”)..

            2. No…typing a passcode is I no way testifying. It neither confirms guilt or innocence as the passcode itself is not evidence. It is simply a means to provide evidence that you are required to provide.

  5. Law enforcement is willing to use any means to strive to the conclusion they want. If you open a door, they will lie to walk through it. It is not a matter of no they are good people. They are us and able to behave like the rest of us. Do you trust me? Can I trust you? Of course the answer is no. So then we cannot trust anyone. The phone has become the mind. Therefor it should be protected and not counted on as a resource.

    Sorry mam, we could not find your child, all we found was this useless phone. It’s not an emotional plea, but s simple fact.

    The enxiety of law enforcement is not the passcode or encryption, it’s the box of answers they cannot open. We have gone to the moon and Pluto to open boxes. What makes you think they won’t try to open our phones, or encourage Apple to do so?

  6. We really need to print more copies of the Constitution. Because now, beside the White House and Justice Department using it as toilet paper, the NY Times is also wiping their ass with it.

  7. Simply put it’s a technological lock and key to privacy. What do we got, 70% good folk 30% nut cases. Or is it 60/40 or the other way around.

    Doesn’t matter, it’s a technological lock and key to privacy.

    Way to go Apple.

  8. From my reading of this Op-ed, the NYT is not expounding this opinion as theirs, (although it might be) they are allowing us, the readers, an insight to the deliberation and rationalization of the various police and judicial forces the writers represent. I think the idea is to have a balanced understanding of the topic, not the myopic one normally expressed here by people who fail to read an article in full, ponder upon it thoughtfully, and then express a considered opinion.
    – As usual it’s shoot to kill first, ask questions later.

    I view my privacy as sacred as the next person, yet I would also like to see all murderers, gangsters, pedophiles and terrorists etc. dealt with appropriately by the law. How this is made possible, I don’t know. … I’m not an expert in any of this.

    Looking at the quote below as presented by MDN … “but upon probable cause” … seems to render the quote null … again, I’m not an expert in any of this.

    [ … 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. — United States Constitution, Amendment IV … ]

  9. My usual response: Adhering to the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution means contacting THE CITIZEN with a WARRANT when they are suspected of crime.

    IOW: This never has had ANYTHING to do with companies that offer encryption services, such as Apple and Google. The US government is doing it WRONG. Apple and Google, performing the duties of responsible companies, consider THE CUSTOMER’S WISHES in their service decisions.

    So please STFU Cyrus R. Vance Jr., François Molins, Adrian Leppard and Javier Zaragoza who write for The New York Times. Your ignorance of the law is showing. Your desperate efforts to enact the ‘1984’ citizen surveillance scenario is showing. Do your research and divorce yourself from the FUD factory drumming on our heads to give up our citizen rights. NOPE! We’re not gonna! We demand our privacy, so just STFU and let the law determine the process, not you, not NSA ad nauseam FUD machines.

    Thank you for your attention and changing your minds in order to reflect the reality of US law. 😀

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