FBI Director James Comey said on Thursday that he is “very concerned” that the latest attempts by Apple and Google to lock down their mobile operating systems limits the ability of the government to ensure national security.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Comey revealed that he has discussed the matter with representatives from both Apple and Google, noting that while personal privacy is important, access to sensitive information may one day be vital to national security.
“I am a huge believer in the rule of law, but I am also a believer that no one in this country is above the law,” Comey said. “What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to place themselves above the law.”
Comey comments comes on the heels of Apple’s recent announcement that new iOS 8 security features make it technically impossible for the company to decrypt any data stored on the device, even if presented with a warrant from police.
“Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data,” Apple said on a webpage related to government requests. “So it’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8.”
This applies only to information stored on iOS devices protected by lock codes. Note that any information stored in iCloud or other servers is still open to government data requests.
Comey takes issue with how the new features are being pushed to consumers, “Google is marketing their Android the same way: Buy our phone and law-enforcement, even with legal process, can never get access to it,” he said.
Comey paints a picture where the new privacy policies and measures could result in dire consequences for the public in the future.
“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,” Comey said. “I just want to make sure we have a good conversation in this country before that day comes. I’d hate to have people look at me and say, ‘Well how come you can’t save this kid,’ ‘how come you can’t do this thing.'”
“I get that the post-Snowden world has started an understandable pendulum swing,” he said. “What I’m worried about is, this is an indication to us as a country and as a people that, boy, maybe that pendulum swung too far.”