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Originally published November 10 2014

U.S. law enforcement officials say Americans should have no privacy because without it criminal investigations are more difficult

by J. D. Heyes

(NaturalNews) The practice did not begin with the Obama Administration, but it has certainly quickened during his tenure: The federal government increasingly seeks to violate basic constitutional privacy protections under the guise of "saving us" from criminal activity.

As reported recently by Bloomberg News, federal law enforcement officials are pushing Google and Apple to allow them to have access to smartphone data that the companies, out of concern for their customers, have decided to shield. Federal officials are now considering whether to appeal to company execs or to push Congress to enact legislation that would open smartphone data.

Bloomberg News further noted:

The new privacy features, announced two weeks ago by the California-based companies, will stymie investigations into crimes ranging from drug dealing to terrorism, law enforcement officials said.

"This is a very bad idea," said Cathy Lanier, chief of the Washington Metropolitan Police Department, in an interview with Bloomberg. She noted that smartphone communication is "going to be the preferred method of the pedophile and the criminal. We are going to lose a lot of investigative opportunities."

Snowden's revelations have made tech companies shy about sharing

And increasingly, that is the federal government's thinking: Because some Americans might misuse the technology, all Americans should be deprived of their Fourth Amendment privacy and probable cause rights, as well as their Fifth Amendment right to due process.

Bloomberg says the dust-up involving the device and media giants is the latest between the federal government and tech companies since former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden laid bare the extent of the government's illicit capture of millions of Americans' electronic data, via phone and Internet usage, and how the tech companies were cooperating in that effort.

In the meantime, the FBI and the Justice Department are already trying to figure out how Google, Apple and Android systems operate and how the tech companies can change encryption to make data accessible upon proper court order. Requests to the tech companies "may include letters, personal appeals or congressional legislation," Bloomberg reported, quoting an unnamed federal law information official.

At present -- and thankfully -- there isn't much the Feds can do other than lobby the tech firms and get them to voluntarily give up users' data. In the wake of the NSA spying scandal, though, tech companies appear to be putting their customers first again by increasing their efforts to protect them from hackers and federal intelligence agency probing. The recent theft of celebrity nude photos from Apple's iCloud service has also rattled tech companies.

"These companies are trying to build products that people want to use," Carl Howe, a mobility analyst with 451 Research in Boston, told Bloomberg. "They want to provide that feeling of privacy. Otherwise, people won't use them."

That's absolutely correct. In fact, in the wake of Snowden's revelations about widespread NSA spying and American tech firms' cooperation, many of them lost a lot of business.

On Sept. 17, Apple described its new customer protection measures, adding that the company could no longer bypass a customer's passcode and "therefore cannot access this data." In the past, though, Apple has cooperated with federal courts and has unlocked phones for federal law enforcement or given them data from Apple systems.

FBI irony

Apple's website message said further that in most cases law enforcement personnel did not seek emails, photos or data stored on its iCloud or iTunes accounts.

"It's not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running" the latest version of the company's operating system, iOS 8, Apple added.

Federal officials counter that evidence obtained from mobile devices has led to the solving of crimes, from drug trafficking to homicides. They note that criminals, like nearly everybody else, spend time using smartphones.

"What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law," FBI Director James Comey said recently, regarding the companies' decision to encrypt. He says he is working with them to change their policies and that he opposes their decision.

But in a touch of irony, this is the same FBI Director Comey who told lawmakers recently that Americans should be concerned about federal government overreach into their lives, and that it has become too powerful.

It seems, however, that he believes as much only when it comes to testifying before the people's representatives.


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