Early in 2016, a fierce battle raged between the FBI and tech giant Apple. The FBI had recovered an iPhone 5C from one of the alleged San Bernardino shooters who killed 14 people and had ties to terrorist groups. However, the FBI couldn't see what was on the phone due to the built-in security.
The FBI wanted the security on the iPhone weakened, and Apple refused. This led to a very public legal battle, which the FBI suddenly dropped after finding a way into the iPhone without Apple's assistance. This raises the question, is law enforcement able to get data from any gadget, even those that are encrypted?
According to the FBI, law enforcement has legal authority at all levels to seize communications and information pursuant to court orders. It claims that because of a fundamental shift in communications services and technologies, law enforcement can't carry out those orders due to a lack of technical ability.
In other words, gadgets that are encrypted are either impossible or take too much time for law enforcement to get the information they need for time-sensitive investigations. However, recent information shows that law enforcement has a pretty high success rate at getting into encrypted gadgets.
Are encrypted gadgets really a problem for law enforcement?
FBI's General Counsel James Baker says that most computers and phones encountered during investigations are able to be unlocked or have its data accessed. Baker said at a recent public meeting that in fiscal year 2016, the FBI came across 2,095 locked gadgets out of 6,814 that it analyzed.
Of those 2,095 locked gadgets, 1,210 were able to be broken into, and there were only 880 they couldn't break into. That means that the FBI was able to get the data it needed from 87 percent of all gadgets it analyzed.
These numbers seem to contradict the FBI's claim that encryption is causing law enforcement problems with investigations.
What this means to you
Your gadget's passcode is meant to keep your information private and secure, which it does to an extent. It appears that law enforcement will be able to access this information if necessary.
Also, skeptics believe that the FBI is even doing a better job at breaking into locked gadgets than they are letting on. A surveillance expert claimed on Twitter that the FBI's claim of a 13 percent fail rate of getting into locked gadgets is "bogus."
FBI says encryption prevents it from getting into 13% of phones it receives. Last time it made claim, it was bogus.https://t.co/rvulqBb0WH
— emptywheel (@emptywheel) November 11, 2016
Are you worried about your gadget's lack of privacy? Leave us a comment and tell us what you think.