Constitutional Principles

Apple Says it Will No Longer Unlock Most iPads and iPhones for Police, Even With a Warrant


Don’t want cops snooping through your phone? Apple says it won’t help them do it, even with a warrant.

According to The Washington Post, the tech giant said Wednesday night it is making it impossible to hand over data from most iPads and iPhones to police. This includes requests accompanied by a warrant.

As noted in the report, the Cupertino, California-based company once maintained the ability to unlock some content for legally binding requests from cops. But it said it will not do so for iOS 8.

“Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data,” Apple reportedly said on its Web site. “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.”

According to the report, as the new operating system becomes widely deployed in the coming weeks, the number of iPads and iPhones that the company could access for police will decline. So unless you have a device that’s several years old, you shouldn’t have to worry about whether a cop will get a hold of your data with the help of the company.

But you may not be out of the woods yet if you use the new operating system.

As the story explains, data stored elsewhere, including on the iCloud service, would still be accessible. If you want to block all police access to your information, you’ll have to adjust your settings to block data from entering iCloud.

Regardless, this appears to be a significant step toward protecting the privacy of a considerable portion of the American public. A quarter of all cell phone owners have an iPhone. And about a third of American adults own a tablet of some kind such as an iPad.

“This is a great move,” Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union, told The Washington Post. “Particularly after the Snowden disclosures, Apple seems to understand that consumers want companies to put their privacy first. However, I suspect there are going to be a lot of unhappy law enforcement officials.”

Meanwhile, not everyone is onboard. Ronald T. Hosko, the former head of the FBI’s criminal investigative division, told The Washington Post the move is “problematic.”

“Our ability to act on data that does exist . . . is critical to our success,” he said.

What do you think? Did Apple make the right move by making it impossible to unlock devices for police?

Photo credit: Flickr/storem