- FBI Director James Comey is worried that encryption technology by Apple and Google could help criminals
- Tech companies have been searching for ways to ensure users' privacy against government surveillance
FBI Director James Comey says new encryption standards by Apple and Google will create "a black hole for law enforcement" that will help sophisticated criminals avoid detection.
Comey is taking up the FBI's years-long push to expand federal surveillance law to require tech companies to include a way for law enforcement to get court ordered access to data on new devices.
"The law hasn't kept pace with technology," Comey said in remarks at the Brookings Institution. "This disconnect has created a significant public safety problem. We call it 'going dark,' and what it means is this: those charged with protecting our people aren't always able to access the evidence we need to prosecute crime and prevent terrorism."
Comey says he understands privacy concerns in the wake of the disclosures of NSA surveillance by former contractor Edward Snowden.
He says the government's ability to do surveillance and what it does access is overstated.
Apple and Google have started selling new operating systems for cellphones that they explicitly market as encrypted beyond the reach of law enforcement. Even with a court order the company cannot let law enforcement get into the devices, unless the data is uploaded to cloud computers.
"But uploading to the cloud doesn't include all of the stored data on a bad guy's phone, which has the potential to create a black hole for law enforcement. And if the bad guys don't back up their phones routinely or of they opt out of uploading to the cloud, the data will only be found on the encrypted devices."
People trying to evade law enforcement are most likely to ensure their data can't be accessed, Comey said.
"Sophisticated criminals will come to count on these means of evading detection. It's the equivalent of a closet that can't be opened. A safe that can't be cracked."