Regulation

Why Police Say Criminals Target iPhones

Apple, the beloved creator of such devices as the iPod, the iPad and, of course, the game-changing iPhone, has come under scrutiny lately from, of all places, law enforcement agencies.

As Reuters recently reported, several groups representing various law enforcement agencies told a judge overseeing Apple’s ongoing battle with the U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday (March 3) that they were aware of “numerous instances” in which criminals had switched to iPhones from “burner” phones to conduct illegal activity, in large part citing the phone’s operating system’s encryption features as a prime benefit in evading police detection and surveillance. They did not list a specific instance.

The brief by the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association and two others, Reuters went on to explain, cited a jailhouse phone call intercepted by New York authorities in 2015, in which an inmate called Apple’s encrypted operating system a “gift from God.”

Last month, the U.S. government obtained a court order requiring Apple to aid law enforcement agencies by writing new software to disable passcode protection and allow access to an iPhone used by one of the shooters in the December killings in San Bernardino, California. Apple has since asked that the order be vacated, arguing that it would set a dangerous precedent and threaten security across its large national and international customer base.

Other tech industry leaders, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft and more than two dozen others, have stepped forward in a show of support for Apple, filing legal briefs supporting the company and its stance to deny assistance in accessing its users’ devices. The Justice Department, on the other hand, received support from law enforcement groups and six relatives of San Bernardino victims calling for the cooperation of the tech company, stating in its brief that Apple’s stance poses a grave threat to investigations across the country.

According to Reuters, Apple has stated that it respects the FBI and has cooperated by turning over data in its possession, however, the latest request is different. Because the FBI’s request would require Apple to create a software tool that does not currently exist, the tech giant believes that the bureau is going too far.

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