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    Apple update creates roadblock to search warrants

    Apple update creates roadblock to search warrants

    No more passcode access for police–or Apple.

    Apple’s latest update to its OS includes a lot of neat bells and whistles, but one key upgrade has privacy advocates cheering.

    This latest reboot has eliminated Apple’s longstanding capability to access users’ iPhone and iPad passcodes; in the past, this allowed Apple to both help users remember forgotten passcodes—and comply with search warrants. iOS 8, however, will actually prevent Apple from accessing user passcodes.

    Via the Washington Post:

    “Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data,” Apple said on its Web site. “So it’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8.”

    As the new operating system becomes widely deployed over the next several weeks, the number of iPhones and iPads that Apple is capable of breaking into for police will steadily dwindle to the point where only devices several years old — and incapable of running iOS 8 — can be unlocked by Apple.

    This update, however, does not prevent Apple from accessing data via iCloud. Apple will still have a legal obligation to give police access to any data (pictures, music, e-mails, text messages, etc.) that is backed up to the cloud. (You can turn off this setting on your individual device.)

    Surprising absolutely no one, law enforcement agencies have put on their “concerned face” over the new changes:

    Ronald T. Hosko, the former head of the FBI’s criminal investigative division, called the move by Apple “problematic,” saying it will contribute to the steady decrease of law enforcement’s ability to collect key evidence — to solve crimes and prevent them. The agency long has publicly worried about the “going dark” problem, in which the rising use of encryption across a range of services has undermined government’s ability to conduct surveillance, even when it is legally authorized.

    “Our ability to act on data that does exist . . . is critical to our success,” Hosko said. He suggested that it would take a major event, such as a terrorist attack, to cause the pendulum to swing back toward giving authorities access to a broad range of digital information.

    Mr. Hosko’s criticism ignores the fact that police can still secure a warrant (such inconvenience!) and seize an individual phone they suspect of containing incriminating material. This is a matter of privacy: there’s no reason for Apple to have access to data that the data owner chooses not to store on Apple-owned storage space.

    The fact that this may cause inconvenience to law enforcement is a moot point; there’s no law in existence that requires consumers to automatically present their personal data for convenient inspection by the government. “Going dark” isn’t a crime, and those who choose to keep their data to themselves are not de facto suspects in the ongoing War on Things and Such.

    As private tech evolves, so does that of law enforcement. If being able to break into a suspect’s phone is critical, they’ll develop better tools for the job.

    And then they’ll get a warrant.


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    I believe Apple is now encrypting things like email in IOS8. Makes it even harder to search the phone.

    profshadow | September 18, 2014 at 10:10 pm

    This also means that if you forget your passcode you are screwed if you kept anything important just on your phone.

    Of course, iCloud will have it all anyway…..

    DaveGinOly | September 19, 2014 at 3:00 am

    The government may have a right to demand your files, but they don’t have a right to understand them. If you invented a language only you could understand, and then created a document in that language, the government would have no authority to order you to translate, for its benefit, what you wrote. The existence of data, messages, notes, documents, etc., and the citizens’ right to create, transmit, and store them, does not imply the government has a right to understand them, nor does it imply the authority to force the citizen to make them understandable, even if it can lawfully seize them. It has generally been presumed that the government has a right to understand the documents it seizes, but only because it has never before had to deal with documents that are (literally) undecipherable. Just because the citizen now has an ability that was heretofore unavailable to him does not mean that the government similarly acquires authority to breach what the citizen desire to keep hidden.

    As far as Apple’s obligations go, they would be required to turn over the files when required by a warrant to do so, but would be under no obligation to make them any more decipherable than the documents’ owner has made them to Apple. Apple has provided the technological means for citizens to make their data undecipherable, and that is not illegal. It’s questionable whether it could be made so, and, if it could, who could be prevented from creating such documents, if anyone could be at all.

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