Policy ForumTechnology, Security, and Law

The real security issues of the iPhone case

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Science  17 Jun 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6292, pp. 1398-1399
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf7708

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The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) pitched its recent court battle with Apple as one of national security versus privacy. But in the conflict over public use of cryptography, decades in the making, this latest battle is actually a collision over differing notions of security in a digital age (1). Law enforcement contends that there should be no “warrant-proof” spaces: When there is a valid court order, agents should be able to access communications devices and systems. Technologists (2) and many former government security officials (35) see this differently: Weakening smartphones' security provided by encrypted communications is counterproductive to long-term security. The ability to secure data on smartphones is crucial not just for the private information present on phones but also because of the ability of smartphones to securely authenticate users to online accounts. Rather than rely on out-of-date approaches to law enforcement, the FBI must develop 21st-century investigative capability.