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Encryption proves enough to lock FBI out of mobile devices

(Image credit: Image Credit: Matt Popovich / Unsplash)

The ongoing debate between law enforcement agencies and device manufacturers over customers' digital privacy was a major point of discussion during the San Bernardino terrorist attack in 2016 and now the FBI has revealed that it was unable to access almost 7,000 devices because of encryption in this year alone. 

At the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Philadelphia, FBI Director Christopher Wray brought up the issue in a speech to highlight how law enforcement agencies are still at a loss as to how to access the data on mobile phones protected with encryption. 

Wray shed further light on how the issue affects the ability of policy and investigators to do their jobs, saying: 

“To put it mildly, this is a huge, huge problem.  It impacts investigations across the board – narcotics, human trafficking, counterterrorism, counter intelligence, gangs, organized crime, child exploitation.  I get it, there's a balance that needs to be struck between encryption and the importance of giving us the tools we need to keep the public safe.  The threats we face keep accumulating, they are complex, they are varied.” 

Back in 2016, the FBI had to turn to a third party to provide the tool to unlock the smartphone of the attacker in San Bernardino and the agency will likely have to use similar methods going forward since Apple and other device manufacturers are greatly concerned about protecting the digital privacy of their customers.   

However, Wray's speech might lead to a resurgence in the debate over encryption and customers' right to digital privacy. 

Image Credit: Matt Popovich / Unsplash

After living and working in South Korea for seven years, Anthony now resides in Houston, Texas where he writes about a variety of technology topics for ITProPortal.