Wading into a fight that’s about to get more interesting, Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday urged tech firms to cooperate with law enforcement.
“We would hope that technology companies would be willing to work with us to ensure that law enforcement retains the ability, with court-authorization, to lawfully obtain information in the course of an investigation, such as catching kidnappers and sexual predators,” Holder said.
Speaking at the Global Alliance Against Child Sexual Abuse Online conference, Holder declared that “when a child is in danger, law enforcement needs to be able to take every legally available step to quickly find and protect the child and to stop those that abuse children.”
“It is worrisome to see companies thwarting our ability to do so,” Holder pointedly added.
Holder’s comments came about a week after FBI Director James Comey, in a meeting with reporters, criticized Apple and Google for developing more potent smartphone encryption that could effectively thwart legally authorized searches.
“Recent technological advances have the potential to greatly embolden online criminals, providing new methods for abusers to avoid detection,” Holder said, adding that “many take advantage of encryption and anonymizing technology to conceal contraband materials and disguise their locations.
The law enforcement alarms, in turn, have prompted privacy advocates to raise their own concerns. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, among others, contend that regulating cryptography has led to “nine epic failures” that include harm to innovation and harm to the Constitution.