A Middle-Ground Solution to Smartphone Encryption

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[Commentary] In a recently published report, my office -- in consultation with cryptologists, technologists and law enforcement partners -- has proposed a solution that we believe is both technologically and politically feasible: Keep the operating systems of smartphones encrypted, but still answerable to locally issued search warrants. This can be achieved in two ways: through good-faith collaboration with Apple and Google or through enactment of a federal statute providing that any smartphone made or sold in the United States must be able to be unlocked -- not by the government, but by the designer of the phone’s operating system -- when the company is served with a valid search warrant.

This is a reasonable, achievable, middle-ground solution. It represents the bare minimum that we need to conduct critical investigations within the rule of law. We also hope that our solution serves to dispel certain myths about local law enforcement’s position on smartphone encryption.

[Cyrus R. Vance Jr. is the Manhattan district attorney]


A Middle-Ground Solution to Smartphone Encryption