NY Police Commissioner Bill Bratton Latest To Complain About Phone Encryption

from the law-enforcement-still-trending-at-100%-opposed dept

The latest law enforcement official to enter into the "debate" over phone encryption is none other than NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, most famous around Techdirt for being "not Ray Kelly." Bratton sees eye-to-eye with pretty much every other critic of Google's and Apple's move to provide encryption by default: this is bad for us (meaning "law enforcement"), therefore new laws.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton ratcheted up the rhetoric against Google and Apple Friday, vowing to push for legislation now that the tech giants have announced operating systems with encryptions that block law enforcement access.

“It does a terrible disservice to the public, ultimately, and to law enforcement, initially,” he said. “It really does impede our investigation of crimes.
That's some mighty fine spin by Bratton. Something that will make a vast majority of the public's data less susceptible to hackers' attacks is a "disservice to the public" because in a very small number of cases, this encryption could hamper an investigation. Because some criminals might use this encryption, no one should be allowed to have it.

Bratton also fired the following (cheap) shot across the bow of the cell phone giants, insinuating that the companies are profiting from law enforcement pain, deliberately.
“For them to consciously, for profit and gain, to thwart those legal constitutional efforts, shame on them.”
Businesses turn profits. Otherwise, they're not businesses (or not in business for long). Offering encryption by default does not -- in itself -- make Apple and Google more money. Nor does "thwarting legal constitutional efforts." It could actually be argued that this will cost both companies more money in the long run, considering they will both be facing additional legal challenges and very-specifically-targeted legislation.

Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance, who notes that he's in "lockstep" with Bratton's views, sounds like he's in lockstep with the former keepers of NYC's security state -- Ray Kelly and Michael Bloomberg -- when he opines that the balance between privacy and security should always be tilted towards law enforcement.
"I think that the balance, however ... can’t be one where saving people’s lives, solving serious crimes from child abuse to terrorism, is the price we have to pay for blanket privacy.”
I keep hearing "child abuse" and "terrorism," but keep envisioning law enforcement's desired encryption backdoor being used for the same thing Stingray devices and cast-off military gear are used for: plain vanilla drug warring and other assorted "normal" criminal investigations. Tears are shed over the pedophile who got away, but in practice, it's rarely anything more than Officer Smith flipping through the digital rolodex of some low-level meth dealer.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 1:45pm

    When you tally it up...

    The police and government takes the cake on the number of crimes being committed on American Soil.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 1:49pm

    If encryption is good enough for the cops radio traffic, it's good enough for the public as well.

    In nearly every case of complaint about encryption I notice one thing missing. It's all rhetoric with no actual cases supporting the data needed to be available this instance. All the previous examples have been exposed to be lies.

    When the police continually move to block accountability within ranks, block that info from public exposure, and continue to lie, it catches up. This is why the public does not trust the cops anymore. They will have to earn that trust and respect and so far they are failing miserably.

    The abuse of the system has led to this. These corporations are doing this to protect their bottom lines. In nearly all cases no one from authority has owned up to the fact these actions have repercussions in the real world. Either user data is protected or the customers will go where it is. It's no longer a choice. The spying from authorities has gotten a reaction and it's one they don't like.

    Too bad, you brought it on yourself.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 22 Oct 2014 @ 2:04pm

      Re:

      Exactly. Google was a little miffed when they found out their inter-datacenter communications where compromised. So they encrypted it. And to further promote encryption, Google has the HTTPS Everywhere initiative.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    NotBillBratton, 22 Oct 2014 @ 1:56pm

    In other news, Bill Bratton's phone data hacked because he couldn't encrypt it.

    A possible posting from a possible hacker, if his legislation goes through...

    Hey there Bill Bratton here, well, not really, but I could be, because you see, I was able to get data from Bill Bratton's unencrypted phone. I was able to read every e-mail ever sent / received, every text message, every one of his, god help me, nude selfies (I'm currently using a bottle brush to try and wipe away the images from my mind, with little success I might add). I'm in the process of opening up several lines of credit in his name, and have sold his CC info to Russian Mobsters.

    I've also sold all secret information about undercover officers that was on my tablet, also unencryptable, so we have many police officers in mortal danger because of the legislation that I pushed for.

    Somebody please shoot me...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Deimal (profile), 22 Oct 2014 @ 1:58pm

    Really?

    It's gotten to the point with these LEOs and officious bureaucrats that there really is only one response.

    F*ck.
    You.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 22 Oct 2014 @ 1:59pm

    Thwart what?

    "thwart those legal constitutional efforts"

    Isn't being safe from from hackers (primarily) and unwarranted search and seizures (secondary) exactly the constitutional effort is being exercised here?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 2:02pm

    #### new york (the city not the people)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    beech, 22 Oct 2014 @ 2:16pm

    "Police work is easy in a police state."

    I mean, really, what else is there to say? Oh, wait, I found one thing,

    "to thwart those legal constitutional efforts, shame on them."

    How utterly ironic that this is the one time these scumbags pretend to care at all about the constitution or laws. It seems he thinks the constitution doesn't give the public the right to privacy, it gives him the GOD GIVEN RIGHT to browse around your phone's contents because "mutter mutter children or something"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 22 Oct 2014 @ 5:54pm

      Re:

      How utterly ironic that this is the one time these scumbags pretend to care at all about the constitution or laws.

      Yet, they even get it wrong here. It makes me wonder if they've ever actually read the thing. They certainly don't appear to understand it.
      ... it gives him the GOD GIVEN RIGHT to browse around your phone's contents because "mutter mutter children or something"

      Note the story earlier today, where once they've got it, they feel free to do whatever they want to with it, sharing it amongst all their LEO compadres, never bothering to delete any of it in case it might be useful in some future fishing expedition. The NSA's "grab it all" mentality is as infectious as ebola, it seems.

      Thank you Edward Snowden! He's not the one who should be up on charges of treason.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 2:16pm

    Law enforcement is demanding that the easy ways of solving a crime is made available to the, and this will enable them to solve the easy, and less serious crimes. The real dangerous actors are taking precautions against being tracked, incriminated by their devices. Catching and convicting these people will take the old fashion wearing out of shoe leather style policing, and as law enforcement is giving this style of policing up, the real dangerous people will escape justice.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 2:24pm

    The SEC *already* has access to emails, texts, etc., for those in the financial markets.

    To date, there's been no arrests for the multi-trillion dollar frauds that caused the financial crisis.

    These guys are the Golden Keystone Kops!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    MO'B (profile), 22 Oct 2014 @ 2:29pm

    Pedophiles and terrorism

    It's really hard to take anything these guys say seriously when they start throwing the term pedophiles and terrorism around.
    All I can picture is an obnoxious little chicken running in circles whining "the sky is falling, the sky is falling"!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 2:29pm

    There's no in-between. Either you have privacy, or you don't.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 2:30pm

    a crime encryption could have prevented

    The DEA using data from seized smartphones to create fake Facebook profiles and unknowingly setting them up as murder targets...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 2:43pm

    "I think that the balance, however ... can’t be one where saving people’s lives, solving serious crimes from child abuse to terrorism, is the price we have to pay for blanket privacy.”
    Fortunately, even with these improvements, we're nowhere near having blanket privacy, so that price won't have to be paid to turn on these features. He should hold off on trotting out that line until after we disband and finish trying the NSA, CIA, DEA, and any other unconstitutionally surveillance-heavy agencies I've forgotten.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 2:47pm

    Legalize torture

    "For them to consciously, for profit and gain, to thwart
    those legal constitutional efforts, shame on them."

    I think the best argument for encryption even when it poses an absolute obstacle to legitimate law enforcement is by analogy to torture and coerced confessions which is absolute and unconditionally forbidden.

    You can't legally use torture or other coersive techniques to obtain information even where the information is crucial to saving a life of a child unless you are willing to let the suspect walk free.

    If there is a device which effectively enables everyone to refuse to divulge any incriminating thoughts to law enforcement, such a device should not be condemned but applauded.

    What's the difference between a child kidnapper storing the evidence of his crime in his mind and another storing the evidence on his encrypted cell phone?

    For purposes of the Constitution there is little practical difference, since the government can't legally use torture in the two scenarios.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Rekrul, 22 Oct 2014 @ 5:12pm

      Re: Legalize torture

      You can't legally use torture or other coersive techniques to obtain information even where the information is crucial to saving a life of a child unless you are willing to let the suspect walk free.

      Sure you can. It happens every day.

      "Give us the names of your contacts or we'll let it slip that you're now a police informant."

      "Tell us where your brother is and maybe we won't charge you with murder."

      "Testify against this other person, and we won't pile on enough charges to get you locked up for the next 50 years at your trial."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 3:03pm

    Ticking timebomb

    The only scenario wherein encryption may be life threatening is in a terrorism or hostage taking case.

    The police finds a suspect who refuses to divulge his password, and the coconspirators get away and let off the bomb or kill the hostage.

    But even there, encryption is no different than storing the same information in the brain.

    If the suspect pleads the fifth and refuses to talk, the police may avoid reading him his Miranda rights and any voluntary unwarned confessions may be used against the suspect at a later criminal trial, but even public safety does not permit the government to use involuntary confessions or derivative physical evidence at trial.

    Torturing or threatening a suspect is absolutely no no, and the legal possibility to compel him to divulge his password is fact intensive and is difficult to satisfy and takes time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 3:21pm

    This is like a surefire way to root out corruption in our law enforcement and government.
    People who complain about the public's right to their own security are obviously not working for the public's best interests.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    william (profile), 22 Oct 2014 @ 4:36pm

    “It does a terrible disservice to law enforcement, and maybe to the public” he said. “It really does impede our investigation because now we have to get off our asses and do some actual work instead of looking through someone's naughty pictures on their phone! Oh the horrors!"

    There, fixed it for you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 5:16pm

    I'm kind of upset at the press who's taking statements from these not so sharp tools , with a few smart questions these guys would be running from their statements.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 22 Oct 2014 @ 6:09pm

      Re:

      I'm kind of upset at the press who's taking statements from these not so sharp tools , with a few smart questions these guys would be running from their statements.

      The White House Press Corps are starting to share stories amongst themselves, having become jaded by the lies they're being fed by officialdom. Hopefully, that's the start of a trend, and The Fourth Estate will become once again a force for good.

      How Rep. King gets away with his obvious paranoid psychosis is a mystery. He's going to hurt himself with all that weird hand-waving he's prone to.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 22 Oct 2014 @ 5:40pm

    Encryption

    I agree with AC "If encryption is good enough for the cops radio traffic, it's good enough for the public as well."

    Gone are the days of using a scanner to listen to them lol

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 6:52pm

    Re: Legalize torture

    ""Give us the names of your contacts or we'll let it slip that you're now a police informant."

    "Tell us where your brother is and maybe we won't charge you with murder."

    "Testify against this other person, and we won't pile on enough charges to get you locked up for the next 50 years at your trial." "

    The first one is very borderline, and if directed to an inmate incarcerated with dangerous criminals, it may well be illegal because such a threat may be unconstitutional compulsion.


    However, threatening an individual with more severe charges is not necessarily unconstitutional *if* the promise or threat is made as part of a plea bargain negotiation.

    There are limits to what the police may threaten or promise a suspect.

    Very often the difference is not so much about what is meant as much about how it is said.

    My point is that if you lawyer up, refuse to talk to the police and plead the fifth and jump through all the hoops required by the Supreme Court's gloss on invoking the Fifth and Sixth Amendment you may often win.
    All your examples won't become dangerous provided the suspect knows his rights.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    chad holbrook, 22 Oct 2014 @ 9:48pm

    xkcd.org

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Dave Howe (profile), 23 Oct 2014 @ 2:35am

    Bearin mind of course

    That the UK *already has* a law to demand someone turns over keys to secured media of any type, on pain of imprisonment - no judicial warrant required.

    So what is being complained about here isn't being unable to gain lawful access to a device, its about being unable to gain access to a device without filing the paperwork first...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Woadan (profile), 23 Oct 2014 @ 4:15am

    For the police to consciously, for a modest gain in time, to thwart my legal constitutional rights and to break encryption, shame on them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Hero, 23 Oct 2014 @ 5:15am

    Tipping point

    The US is not a representative democracy, which, for example, can be seen by the number of citizens who favor stricter gun control (vast majority) vs. the number of legislators that favor stricter gun control (less than half, maybe?).

    I think this encryption issue is starting to show that the government has become so unrepresentative of the people that it no longer can understand how the public thinks, and as a result, can no longer sway us with their ridiculous rhetoric.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Oct 2014 @ 5:16am

    Re: Bearin mind of course

    The UK's law is more nuanced, and the criminal penalty can only be imposed after a full criminal trial wherein the state must prove that the person knowingly failed to comply.

    All the encryption cases under RIPA resulting in criminal convictions have concerned easily proven encryption schemes and scenarios where the ownership and access was not in doubt.

    Compare UK law to the Fifth Amendment, and there is in fact little difference.

    (1) Under RIPA, if the government can prove you own a computer, is able to decrypt data you must comply or risk criminal prosecution.

    (2) Under the Fifth Amendment, you can also be compelled to decrypt data if the government can prove your ability to do so and you can also be convicted of criminal contempt if your willful refusal can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

    But under neither law are you going to jail if the government is unable to prove that there is encrypted data, and that you has the ability to decrypt.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      ThruthHurts, 23 Oct 2014 @ 6:45am

      Re: Re: Bearin mind of course

      You forget about miranda rights.

      Decryption keys would certainly qualify.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        TruthHurts, 23 Oct 2014 @ 6:47am

        Re: Re: Re: Bearin mind of course

        I'm not sure that that statement is true though, pleading the 5th, the right to refuse to answer if the answer would incriminate you trumps any order by any government official, judges included.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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