Smartphone Encryption and Public Safety


The inaccessibility of smartphone data remains, in more and more cases, an insurmountable obstacle for law enforcement and victims of crime.

Today, nearly every criminal case relies on digital evidence. In 2014, Apple and Google reengineered their operating systems in order to prevent the companies from complying with orders from judges to extract evidence of crimes from smartphones.

The inaccessibility of smartphone data remains, in more and more cases, an insurmountable obstacle for law enforcement and victims of crime. Criminals, like everyone else, operate increasingly in the digital realm. Traditional investigative techniques – searches of targets’ homes, physical surveillance, wiretaps on telephones – often fall short when it comes to gathering enough evidence to solve and prosecute today’s criminal activity. Unfortunately, much of today’s evidence exists in a space that, prior to 2014, was largely unheard-of: warrant-proof smartphones that have been designed to keep law enforcement out.

Moreover, the Manhattan DA’s Office’s third report on smartphone encryption and public safety concluded that expensive workarounds to the problem of full-disk encryption contribute to unequal access to justice for crime victims in a changing landscape where solving crime depends largely on a law enforcement agency’s ability and resources to spend money on private-sector solutions.


What Law Enforcement Offices Can Do:

  • Track cases involving iPhones and other encrypted devices
  • Generate statistics to demonstrate the scope of the issue
  • Provide examples of cases impacted by encryption policies
  • Write op-eds or open letters to educate others and increase awareness
  • Discuss the issue with elected officials and community leaders