The comparative safety of data on Apple's devices has long been one of their chief selling points, and FBI Director James Comey just can't stand it when Apple plays up those features. And now that Google, too, has taken to tightening up its mobile operating system, he announced to reporters today that he'd been in talks with the companies. "What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to place themselves above the law," he said, as reported by the Huffington Post.
If you haven't heard, your private information is actually safer with iOS 8 than it has been in the past, according to a new privacy site Apple launched last week. In the past, Apple would store the encryption keys for your iDevices, but as of iOS 8 that's no longer the case. The upshot? Police and other officials can no longer use those codes to gain access to the user's data if they so request it of Apple. Starting next month, Google will start encrypting data by default, leading to a similar protection.
"I like and believe very much that we should have to obtain a warrant from an independent judge to be able to take the content of anyone's closet or their smart phone," Comey said. "The notion that someone would market a closet that could never be opened — even if it involves a case involving a child kidnapper and a court order — to me does not make any sense."
The trouble is that Comey's concerns don't make sense to many supporters of Apple and Google's privacy measures, particularly since there's some worry that actions such as Comey is describing may conflict with the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Specifically, the amendment reads: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
For his part, Comey seems to believe that "probable cause" is the key issue here, and during the press conference, he specifically seems concerned with Apple and Google's marketing of the feature.
"There will come a day — well it comes every day in this business — when it will matter a great, great deal to the lives of people of all kinds that we be able to with judicial authorization gain access to a kidnapper's or a terrorist or a criminal's device," he said.
Comey also claims that he just wants "make sure we have a good conversation in this country" before an incident occurs where such measures are absolutely necessary. Furthermore, he acknowledges that the opposition to the NSA in the wake of Edward Snowden's revelations has "started an understandable pendulum swing."
"What I'm worried about is," he said, "this is an indication to us as a country and as a people that, boy, maybe that pendulum swung too far."