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Attorney General Eric Holder is the latest government official to come down on new mobile OS security features from Apple and Google that make unlocking a smartphone nearly impossible, even for law enforcement agencies.
During a speech in front of the Global Alliance Against Child Sexual Abuse Online on Tuesday, Holder criticized Apple's iOS 8 device encryption for essentially being too secure, saying officers who require access to an iPhone should have a way in, reports Reuters.
Wary of stronger iOS 8 passcode protection, and an upcoming implementation in Google's Android, Holder implied that a middle ground can be reached between government access and device security without impinging on public privacy.
"It is fully possible to permit law enforcement to do its job while still adequately protecting personal privacy," Holder said.
Apple says it no longer holds encryption keys for devices running iOS 8, meaning the only way to gain access to a locked iPhone or iPad would be through the passcode holder. This complicates things for law enforcement agencies wanting to gain access to a suspect's smartphone, even if the proper warrants and documentation are supplied.
In time sensitive cases, such as kidnappings, an iPhone's data could help find and save the lives of potential victims, Holder said. For example, call history, geo-location tags, emails, contact lists and more can be locked away on a suspect's handset. Data stored in iCloud can still be tapped for warranted search, but results would vary depending on a user's sync settings.
Holder's comments come one week after FBI Director James Comey said unbreakable encryption could one day pose a threat to national security. Comey also used the kidnapping analogy, saying, "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.'"