The New York Police Department's counter-terrorism chief John Miller has accused Apple of providing aid to criminals by using encryption to secure its iPhones, according to The Daily News.
Speaking on AM radio host John Catsimatidis’s The Cats Roundtable show on Sunday, the deputy commissioner hit out at Apple for its encryption policies, arguing that recent changes to the iPhone operating system had prevented law enforcement from doing its job.
"I still don’t know what made Apple change their minds and decide to actually design a system that made them not able to aid the police," Miller told Catsimatidis.
"You are providing aid to the kidnappers, robbers and murders who have actually been recorded on the telephones in Riker's Island telling their compatriots on the outside, 'You gotta get iOS 8. It's a gift from God' – and that's a quote – 'because the cops can't crack it,'" Miller said.
The same account was quoted in last week's U.S. congressional hearing, when New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance claimed that his agency was unable to access 175 iPhones linked to criminal activity that are currently in its possession. Vance added that hundreds of encrypted Apple devices had also been seized in Texas, Illinois and Connecticut, during investigations into serious crimes including human trafficking and sexual assaults.
In the past, Apple has extracted data from iPhones under lawful court orders, but the company stopped storing encryption keys for devices running iOS 8 or later. As a result of this stronger protection, Apple cannot assist the FBI without circumventing iOS security and putting the privacy and safety of its customers at risk.
Last month a U.S. Federal judge ordered Apple to help federal investigators access data on the iPhone 5c used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook. The U.S. government said at the time that investigators were only seeking access to the iPhone related to the San Bernardino case.
However, reports have since revealed that the U.S. Department of Justice is pursuing additional court orders that would force Apple to help federal investigators extract data from twelve other encrypted iPhones that may contain crime-related evidence.
The 12 cases are similar to the San Bernardino case in that prosecutors have sought to use the 18th-century All Writs Act to force Apple to comply, but none are related to terrorism charges and most involve older versions of iOS software.
Apple has officially opposed an order that would require it to help the FBI break into the iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook and will now face off against the government in court on March 22.
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