Children are being raped, citizens murdered, and lost souls trafficked for sex and the police can't do anything about it thanks to Apple and Google, senior government lawyers and a top cop have claimed.
In an op-ed in The New York Times, Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr; Adrian Leppard, commissioner of the City of London Police; Paris' chief prosecutor François Molins; and Javier Zaragoza, chief prosecutor of the High Court of Spain, said that the current situation is unsupportable and legal changes are needed to keep the public safe.
"The new encryption policies of Apple and Google have made it harder to protect people from crime," they wrote.
"We support the privacy rights of individuals. But in the absence of cooperation from Apple and Google, regulators and lawmakers in our nations must now find an appropriate balance between the marginal benefits of full-disk encryption and the need for local law enforcement to solve and prosecute crimes."
The quartet of inquisitors cited an investigation into a murder case that was getting nowhere because police couldn't unlock the victim's phone, cases in New York involving child abuse and sex trafficking that are being stymied by the privacy systems Apple and Google run, and pointed out that the Charlie Hebdo case in France where cellphone data was vital to tracking down the terrorists.
Criminals are getting wise to this they warned, citing (apparently without irony) a conversation between a prison inmate and a visitor that was listened to, where the convict was heard to say that "Apple and Google have these softwares" that lock up phones.
They poured scorn on Apple and Google's cited reasons for introducing full-drive encryption – that it was what people wanted because of fears about government intrusion in the wake of the evidence of intelligence overreach furnished by Edward Snowden.
Drive encryption wouldn't have stopped much of the spying, they argue, and prosecutors work through legal processes to get access to evidence. This conveniently forgets the fact that the intelligence services also got a court's rubber stamp on their spying.
Wisely, the four lawyers steered clear of the now-thoroughly debunked argument that encryption needs to have a back door, or a front door, that would allow law enforcement access to private files. Instead they hammer on the point that it's Apple and Google's civic duty to deny customers what they want.
The editorial skates over the fact that full-drive encryption is a valuable tool for protecting information if the phone is lost or stolen. Also not mentioned is that mobile phones have been in wide circulation for only a couple of decades and the police still managed to catch criminals in the past.
But why let logic enter the debate – there are crypto wars to fight and we must all think of the children and let the government see whatever they want, when they want it. It's the only way to stop killers stabbing you while you sleep. ®