Lynch weighs in on encryption debate

Getty Images

Attorney General Loretta Lynch is calling for an “open dialogue” between technology firms and law enforcement, groups currently locked in a battle over encryption.

“That's how we move closer to our shared goal of ensuring that as the American people reap the benefits of innovation, they continue to enjoy the full protection of the law," Lynch will say in prepared remarks to be delivered at the RSA Conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press.

ADVERTISEMENT
Her remarks come as Apple is resisting a federal court order compelling it to help the FBI unlock the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. The case, which has sharply divided lawmakers and advocacy groups, is the culmination of a long-running dispute between law enforcement and tech.

The FBI and law enforcement officials have long warned that extremists are increasingly using encrypted platforms to “go dark” and hide their plans from authorities. They are calling on tech companies to provide investigators with guaranteed access to secure data.

But the tech industry and privacy advocates have resisted. They insist such guarantees would create “backdoors,” or security vulnerabilities, that hackers and spies could exploit.

Lynch on Tuesday will echo FBI Director James B. Comey, who has frequently stressed that the consequences of locking authorities out of devices — even when they have the proper warrant — are a danger to public safety.

“As recent events have made clear, the stakes aren't theoretical; they bear directly upon our public safety and our national security," Lynch will say.

The Justice Department earlier this month filed a motion to force Apple to comply with the court order set by a California judge, faulting the tech giant for refusing to "assist the effort to investigate" the December attack, which killed 14.

Lynch’s remarks come the same afternoon as both Comey and Apple’s senior counsel are scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on the subject of encryption.

On Monday afternoon, Apple scored a win in the overall debate when a federal magistrate in Brooklyn ruled that the Justice Department cannot force Apple to help unlock an iPhone in a separate, routine drug case. The decision does not set a binding precedent, but the company believes that it bears a persuasive similarity to the case involving the San Bernardino shooter’s phone — the government was attempting to use the same law to compel Apple to unlock the phones in both court orders.

According to U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein, none of the factors he considered in the New York case “justifies imposing on Apple the obligation to assist the government's investigation against its will.”