Going Dark

December 15, 2015 – Volume 4

Since 2014, Apple and Google’s new operating systems automatically encrypt their phones. This means that if law enforcement does not have the password, Apple or Google can no longer access the phone, even with a court ordered search warrant. The encryption may apply to some computers and laptops as well. So if a murder victim never divulged his or her passcode to anyone, or if a suspect refuses to disclose his passcode, the potential evidence or clues on the phone may remain permanently inaccessible.

The 2015 New York County Report on Smart Phone Encryption and Public Safety contains detailed information on this issue, as well as a useful chart outlining where data, such as texts, contacts, phone call detail, GPS, cell sites and Internet search history may reside. Click here.

Please send any examples you have of how this encryption has thwarted an investigation.

These materials provide additional information:

  • Data, Privacy and Public Safety – A Law Enforcement Perspective, IACP Summit Report (2015). Click here.
  • IACP and NDAA Joint Statement on Going Dark (11/2015). Click here.
  • Paris Attacks Fuel a Fresh Debate Over Encryption, The Washington Post – Editorial Board (11/19/2015). Click here.
  • F.B.I. Director Repeats Call That Ability to Read Encrypted Messages Is Crucial, The New York Times (11/18/2015). Click here.
  • The Brittney Mims Murder Case Has Put Baton Rouge In the Middle of the National Cellphone Encryption Debate, The Advocate (9/1/2015).
    • In April 2015, Brittney Mills, a 29-year-old pregnant woman, was fatally shot when an unknown individual came to her front door. Although doctors delivered her baby, he died a week later. Baton Rouge police suspect that the perpetrator was someone she knew. Investigators found the victim’s iPhone, but were unable to access the information on it without her four-digit passcode. Apple is unable to access the phone’s data without Mills’ password, and the case remains unsolved. Click here.
  • Encrypted Evidence is Increasingly Hampering Criminal Investigations Police Say, Channel 5 News (11/4/2015). Click here.