Compliance » Judge Opens Privacy Debate Over Smartphone Encryption

Judge Opens Privacy Debate Over Smartphone Encryption

October 13, 2015

Last week, a federal judge in New York released an order asking tech giant Apple whether a government warrant seeking to unlock a customer’s smartphone would be “unduly burdensome.” The move is part of Magistrate Judge James Orenstein’s effort to expand debate, both among the public and in the courts, over the balance between encryption services offered to consumers and the government’s ability to compel access to that encrypted information. When Apple began offering phones last year that offered encryptions that could only be unlocked by the device’s owner, FBI Director James B. Comey said the firm was deliberately allowing “people to place themselves beyond the law.” For now, the Obama administration plans to continue trying to persuade companies to voluntarily give law enforcement access to encrypted data. In his order, Orenstein seemed to hint that he would prefer not to force Apple to hand the data over, because unlike a public phone company, Apple is a private-sector firm that is “free to choose to promote its customers’ interest in privacy over the competing interest of law enforcement.”

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