Holder calls cellphone locks ‘worrisome’

Attorney General Eric HolderEric H. HolderLawyer claims death threats after anti-Black Lives Matter lawsuit Adviser: Obama can’t ‘erase decades’ of racism Airbnb enlists civil rights leaders in discrimination fight MORE said on Tuesday that he was concerned by new cellphone protections that prevent anyone — even police with a warrant — from accessing internal data.

“We would hope that technology companies would be willing to work with us to ensure that law enforcement retains the ability, with court-authorization, to lawfully obtain information in the course of an investigation, such as catching kidnappers and sexual predators,” Holder said at a conference on online sexual abuse, according to prepared remarks. 

ADVERTISEMENT
“When a child is in danger, law enforcement needs to be able to take every legally available step to quickly find and protect the child and to stop those that abuse children,” he added. 

“It is worrisome to see companies thwarting our ability to do so.”

The comments represent the highest ranking expression of criticism towards companies such as Apple and Google, which recently announced plans to automatically encrypt new iPhones and Android devices to keep out unwanted eyes.

Holder’s remarks come just days after similar criticism from FBI Director James Comey, who last week told reporters he was “very concerned” about the new digital protections.

“Recent technological advances have the potential to greatly embolden online criminals, providing new methods for abusers to avoid detection,” Holder said, without naming any particular companies.

“Many take advantage of encryption and anonymizing technology to conceal contraband materials and disguise their locations,” he added. “And through unceasing innovations in mobile technology, predators are continually finding more opportunities to entice trusting minors to share explicit images of themselves.”

The trend of companies making data more secure is part of a deliberate campaign by tech companies in recent weeks and months. Revelations from Edward Snowden, a seemingly nonstop barrage of credit card hacks at major stores and the leaks of hundreds of celebrities’ nude photos have caused the public to grow increasingly concerned about their digital privacy.

In addition to the cellphone news, Google and Yahoo have recently announced plans to make it easier to encrypt emails, among other developments.