Another Police Chief Says Phone Encryption Is A Pedophile's Best Friend

from the public-suffers-third-degree-stupidity-burns dept

More law enforcement officials are coming forward to express their dismay at Apple’s and Google’s decision to encrypt cellphones by default. And the hysteria seems to be getting worse. As was recently covered, FBI director James Comey stated that no one was above the law, while failing to realize there’s actually no law preventing Apple or Google from doing this.

The chief of the Chicago police went even further:

“Apple will become the phone of choice for the pedophile,” said John J. Escalante, chief of detectives for Chicago’s police department. “The average pedophile at this point is probably thinking, I’ve got to get an Apple phone.”

Now, Washington DC’s police chief, Cathy Lanier (who we’ve praised previously for her implementation and enforcement of a tough [on cops] citizen recording policy) is echoing Escalante’s ridiculous statement.

“This is a very bad idea,” said Cathy Lanier, chief of the Washington Metropolitan Police Department, in an interview. Smartphone communication is “going to be the preferred method of the pedophile and the criminal. We are going to lose a lot of investigative opportunities.”

First off, law enforcement rarely ever encounters encryption. These facts are borne out by the US Courts’ annual statistics on warrant requests. That they’ll encounter it more often from now on has nothing to do with the scary stories they’ve been telling to justify their collective freakout. Those criminals didn’t use it, for the most part. And if they did, it was circumvented nearly 100% of the time.

Second, implying that pedophiles are suddenly going to start buying iPhones/Androids is a non-starter. Plenty of encryption options already exist and most pedophiles and criminals already own cellphones. Police have captured plenty of criminals and pedophiles without cracking encryption. See “first off” above.

Third, and this is where the irony sets in, Lanier’s department is a big fan of encryption. From 2011:

D.C. police became one of the latest departments to adopt the practice [encrypting police radio communications] this fall. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said recently that a group of burglars who police believe were following radio communications on their smartphones pulled off more than a dozen crimes before ultimately being arrested and that drug dealers fled a laundromat after a sergeant used his radio to call in other officers — suggesting that they, too, might have been listening in.

“Whereas listeners used to be tied to stationary scanners, new technology has allowed people — and especially criminals — to listen to police communications on a smartphone from anywhere,” Lanier testified at a D.C. Council committee hearing this month. “When a potential criminal can evade capture and learn, ‘There’s an app for that,’ it’s time to change our practices.”

Journalist wondered what sort of impact this decision would have on public safety, if only certain individuals were allowed to hear as-it-happens discussions of dangerous events. All the cops could think about was the ones that got away. Now the encryption’s on the other end and the police are using both the public safety argument and counting their escaped criminals before they’ve actually escaped justice.

I guess encryption only works for the government. All others need not apply. Lanier’s statement — combined with the DCPD’s encrypted transmissions — means she only wants to encrypt the communications of the department’spedophiles and criminals.”

Now, going back to James Comey complaining about Apple and Google being above the law. Nothing that exists can legally prevent them from providing this encryption to their customers… at least for now. Surfing high on a wave of hysteria, former FBI Counsel Andrew Weissman has arrived to push for exactly that: new laws.

They have created a system that is a free-for-all for criminals,” said Weissmann, a law professor at New York University. “It’s the wrong balancing act. Having court-ordered access to telephones is essential to thwart criminal acts and terrorist acts.”

Weissmann said there was little the Justice Department could do to stop the emerging policies. The companies are permitted to have encryption systems. The only way to ensure law enforcement access is for Congress to pass legislation, he said.

The answer to a move prompted by the exposure of government overreach is… more government overreach. Weissman’s horrendous idea will find some sympathetic ears in Congress, but not nearly as many as it would have found a few years ago. Any legislation prompted by law enforcement officials’ iPedophile hallucinations will be decidedly terrible and loaded with negative side effects and collateral damage.

And let’s not forget that, since the beginning of criminal activity, there have always been panics about new technology placing ne’er-do-wells ahead of pursuing flatfoots. Here’s one from 1922, pointed out by the ACLU’s Chris Soghoian:


Here’s a text version:

The automobile is a swift and powerful vehicle of recent development, which has multiplied by quantity production and taken possession of our highways in battalions, until the slower, animal-drawn vehicles, with their easily noted individuality, are rare. Constructed as covered vehicles to standard form in immense quantities, and with a capacity for speed rivaling express trains, they furnish for successful commission of crime a disguising means of silent approach and swift escape unknown in the history of the world before their advent. The question of their police control and reasonable search on highways or other public places is a serious question.

The baffling extent to which they are successfully utilised to facilitate commission of crime of all degrees, from those against morality, chastity, and decency to robbery, rape, burglary, and murder, is a matter of common knowledge. Upon that problem a condition and not a theory confronts proper administration of our criminal laws.

Law enforcement techno-panic. Dating all the way back to the “silent approach” of a 1920’s-era internal combustion engine.

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Comments on “Another Police Chief Says Phone Encryption Is A Pedophile's Best Friend”

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48 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

Let's follow that logic chain a bit shall we?

Between police and people in the government freaking out and declaring that encryption clearly has no other purpose than use by terrorists/criminals/pedophiles, I wonder if anyone has pointed out just where that line of thinking leads?

The government uses encryption? Obviously it’s staffed by nothing but terrorists and pedophiles.

The police use encryption? Obviously they are staffed by terrorists and pedophiles.

Hell, the one complaining this time employs encryption on her own department’s communications, according to her logic the only possible reason(s) they could have to do that is a nefarious and/or criminal one.

When you get right down to it, what they’re really going completely crazy over is people protecting their privacy, and making it so certain groups can’t just go browsing through their private documents/files without them knowing about it, and without a court approved warrant.

And the absolute best part of this? It wouldn’t even be an issue if the government and police had followed the rules and shown an ounce of self-restraint in the first place. It’s only because they have shown that they absolutely cannot be trusted that more and more people and companies are ramping up their security and encryption efforts.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Let's follow that logic chain a bit shall we?

It’s so easy! They just have to propose that encryption be outlawed. Come on, do it!
Oh, you’d rather frame it in dubious moral stances? Ok, then. Go ahead.
By the way, when I access my homebanking account I’m certainly uploading child porn, right? Online payments? Ha! I’m funding terrorist left and right!

AricTheRed says:

Really?

This group of “Law Enforcement Professionals”, henceforth known as A Bag of Dicks, have not heard of Blackphone? with standard end-to-end encryption of virtually all features between Blackphone users?

What does that make that group of early adopters? A big bunch of antichrist-gay-nazi-zombie biker-libertarian-babyrapist-left-handed-midget-lesbian-albino-eskimo-ISIL/ISIS/Al Queda-journalist beheaders?

Anonymous Coward says:

None of this encryption thing would be necessary had the law enforcement as well as government decided to just chunk what the law means in favor of breaking it.

It makes you wonder how ever in the world did these criminals get caught before cell phones and the internet came to be. Or could it be that now a days, law enforcement doesn’t want to leave the office? No worrying about criminals and the threat they represent law enforcement that made them so afraid they went and got their very own MRAPs, grenade launchers, and military armament. The cities they are responsible for patrolling now being handled by face recognition cameras all over the place (even though the software is full of bugs, can’t actually do accurate ids, and the cameras only take low quality images) so that the desk is now the patrol beat.

No one would be concerned with encryption had it not proved necessary to protect oneself from the authorities. People are beginning to understand they have less to fear from criminals than they do the authorities.

I’m from the government and I’m here to help has taken on a whole new meaning.

Anonymous Coward says:

How smart is a pedophile?

Clearly not smart enough to configure his phone all by himself.

Clearly not smart enough to figure out on his own that he needs encryption.

Fortunately, the FBI and other police agencies are running a mass-awareness-raising campaign for all the pedophiles of the world. Soon, thanks to these public-spirited law-enforcement bureaucrats, EVERY pedophile will have learned how important encryption is, and how he can get an encrypted phone without any technical no-how.

This is, no doubt, a good thing. But I have to ask, with so many demands on those formerly-taxpayers’ dollars, is educating pedophiles on the best ways of avoiding surveillance really appropriate?

Deniable Sources (profile) says:

So what's the concern about phones, exactly?

Most of what’s on my phone is pretty simple: call logs, emails, texts, calendar entries, and files synced through various cloud services.

All of which, interestingly, are available to law enforcement armed with a proper warrant, assuming they know enough to ask. My phone is just one convenient place to find them, and the only one a random LEO might find in my pocket during a contrived search.

Now if that LEO really has probable cause, they can get my calls and contacts. They can get my emails. They can get my files. Heck, if they subpoena Verizon and Google they can get the history of the towers I’ve hit and the places I’ve parked my car. About the only thing they can’t get is immediate access to that information without a decent reason and without having to go to the trouble of a real investigation.

In other words, encryption on a phone is unusually bad because it particularly affects lazy, dishonest, or incompetent law enforcement officials. God forbid…

(And to the smug ones saying that the Secret Encoder Key that reveals the location of a hostage might be found on a pedophile’s phone, stored nowhere else and for some reason in plaintext on the phone as opposed to any one of a number of encrypting storage applications, I would simply advise them to buy lottery tickets, because they’ve cleaned out pretty much all the long odds by now.)

Paul Powers (profile) says:

One day after Congressman and former FBI agent Mike Rodgers assures Senator Feinstein of California that her Cyber Spying bill CISA will pas the Senate, a Cybersecurity breach happens a JP Morgan

Hi, Sorry about the last post. After reading this article and then reading today about a cyberbreach that happened at JP Morgan Chase http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2014/10/02/jpmorgan-discovers-further-cyber-security-issues/ one day after Congressman and Former FBI agent Mike Rodgers according to the Hill Newspaper, Rep Rodgers assured the Senator that her Cyberspying bill CISA or S.2588 would be pushed in the Senate as you will see from this link here > http://thehill.com/policy/technology/219429-house-chairman-fears-political-tantrums-could-sink-cyber-bill

Perhaps I am being a bit of a conspirator but this Cyberbreach at JP Morgan Chase just strikes me very odd that it happened after the day Congressman Rodgers who is retiring from Congress this year made his statement and then a Cyberbreach at JP Morgan.

In case you do not know what CISA or the S. 2588: Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2014 it is a massive Cyberspying bill that will give your ISP or Internet Service Providers the right to give your information to law enforcement violating your 4th amendment rights and to anyone in the private sector willing to pay money for your private e-mails and under CISA your ISP will get immunity for selling your information regardless of Contract or you the internet user finding out. S. 2588: Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2014

CISA also takes destroys NET NEUTRALITY http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2014/07/07/nsa-net-neutrality-fears-overshadow-senate-cybersecurity-vote and allows with legal authority major NSA Spying http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/12/senate-nsa-secret-cybersecurity-information-sharing-act

I recently heard a Muslim Student going to a high school in Alabama had been harassed by the NSA when the School got a phone call from the NSA to spy on the student simply because the Student has a Muslim name http://fusion.net/story/18656/alabama-school-district-says-nsa-was-watching-high-school-students-on-social-media/

There have been petitions to try to stop CISA Cyberspying bill from both the Electronic Frontier Foundation(EFF) https://act.eff.org/action/stop-the-cybersecurity-information-sharing-act-of-2014 and Fight 4 the Future http://www.cispaisback.org/

Both are online civil liberties groups. Anyway it is just sad how Government and the police are pushing to invade are privacy and I would not be surprised if some events we see are to push out are privacies and 4th amendment laws here in America. CISA for example is a violation of privacy to give immunity to ISP’s to sell and give my private e-mails and text to Law Enforcement against my 4th amendment rights and sell my information and I would not put it passed a former FBI agent in Washington just as these police know are rights get in the way of there right to destroy are freedoms online and here in America. Sad but true.

Anonymous Coward says:

So pedos are more dangerous than criminals and even terrorists?
Friendly reminder that if you are on the internet you will very likely stumble across a random questionable picture, and a single thumbnail is enough to put you away for decades.

hurr encryption is bad your children will die just please ignore the massive failures in the system

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“So pedos are more dangerous than criminals and even terrorists?”

No, just scarier. Bring up the “but the children”, and you can paint anyone who tries to invoke common sense as supporting child rape. After all, if it’s “for the children”, how can you be against it? So, those with real opposing arguments and factual arguments stay quiet lest they be painted as pro-abuse. A classic tactic for politicians.

Almost Anonymous says:

Small thread derail

The automobile is a swift and powerful vehicle of recent development, which has multiplied by quantity production and taken possession of our highways in battalions, until the slower, animal-drawn vehicles, with their easily noted individuality, are rare. Constructed as covered vehicles to standard form in immense quantities, and with a capacity for speed rivaling express trains, they furnish for successful commission of crime a disguising means of silent approach and swift escape unknown in the history of the world before their advent. The question of their police control and reasonable search on highways or other public places is a serious question.

The baffling extent to which they are successfully utilised to facilitate commission of crime of all degrees, from those against morality, chastity, and decency to robbery, rape, burglary, and murder, is a matter of common knowledge. Upon that problem a condition and not a theory confronts proper administration of our criminal laws.

They should really require a license or something to use those “automobiles”. That would surely prevent criminals from using them for crimes.

Anonymous Coward says:

“First off, law enforcement rarely ever encounters encryption. These facts are borne out by the US Courts’ annual statistics on warrant requests.”

Um, no @Tim. You and Mike both seem to insist on spreading this bit of misinformation. The wiretap report you link to discusses the few times that police have encountered encryption that kept them from intercepting a call. That’s why the title of the TD post has the phrase “Wiretap Report” in it. The report says nothing at all about how many times police encountered encrypted data stored on phones or computers, or whether they had trouble decrypting it, which is the scenario that would be relevant to the new Apple and Android policies.

Both you and Mike are smart enough to know the difference between encrypted communications and encrypted data stored on a device. So stop claiming that “law enforcement rarely encounters encryption.” I don’t believe that’s true. As Orin Kerr and others have written, police send Apple phones all the time to get Apple to unlock them. Which they would not do if they weren’t encrypted. But if you think it is, then cite something that actually supports that claim, rather than something you know or ought to know is irrelevant.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

So stop claiming that “law enforcement rarely encounters encryption.” I don’t believe that’s true. As Orin Kerr and others have written, police send Apple phones all the time to get Apple to unlock them. Which they would not do if they weren’t encrypted. But if you think it is, then cite something that actually supports that claim, rather than something you know or ought to know is irrelevant.

What difference should it make in the frequency that law enforcement encounters encryption? If I choose not to have a passcode on my phone, and the phone is lost, it’s that much easier for the person finding it to access any of the data on it.
Why should ANYONE choose to make law enforcement’s job easier, while at the same time, expose themselves to a much bigger risk?
What good does that serve?
Being as responsible as you can with YOUR DATA is far more important than making some cop’s life more difficult, should he feel the need to rummage through your data.

I think you’re really missing the point of the article, if that’s what you’re choosing to criticize.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

If it makes no difference how frequently law enforcement encounters encryption, then Mike and Tim have no need to keep repeating the false claim that law enforcement rarely encounters encryption. I think Tim and Mike make this claim because they think it bolsters their argument that Apple and Google are making the right call in designing their handset encryption so that not even Apple/Google can break it.

But I do get the point of the article. I’m not even disagreeing with Tim’s and Mike’s and AC#42’s conclusion that the Apple/Google policy is a good idea. I certainly understand the upside to individual users. After all, as a user I have little interest in Apple or Google being able to break the encryption on my phone. I agree that having strong encryption in widespread use has lots of benefits not just for me but for the public in general, and cuts down on the risk that backdoors will be exploited by hackers and scammers.

But there are downsides to making it so the police can never break the encryption on a handset, even where the police have gotten a search warrant and need Apple’s or Google’s help to decrypt the data. Sometimes the encrypted data will be critical to some serious case-pick whatever kind of case is important to you-and if police cannot access the data it might be someone gets hurt or a violent criminal goes free or maybe just that someone loses a ton of money. This downside could well be outweighed by all the other good effects that flow from unbreakable handset encryption. Tim sure seems to think so, and as I said before, I am not sure I disagree with him.

But just because we think more encryption is a good thing does not mean we should pretend that police hardly ever encounter encryption or that it never gets in the way of a real investigation (and then to cite a report about encryption in a totally different area).

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I largely agree with you here, but part ways on this part:

“…gets in the way of a real investigation…”

Access to the contents of phones have been a convenience for the police, but I’m unaware of any case that could not have been solved using other standard investigatory techniques.

I understand the desire for the police to have convenience — I like that in my own job as well — but failing to make something convenient is not the same as getting in the way of something.

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