by Ryan J. Reilly and Matt Sledge
10/16/2014 2:46 pm EDT
WASHINGTON -- FBI Director James Comey called Thursday for "a regulatory or legislative fix" for technology companies' expanding use of encryption to protect user privacy, arguing that without such a fix, "homicide cases could be stalled, suspects could walk free, and child exploitation victims might not be identified or recovered."
Comey said he understood the "justifiable surprise" many Americans felt after former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden's disclosures about mass government surveillance, but he contended that recent shifts by companies like Apple and Google to make data stored on cell phones inaccessible to law enforcement went too far.
"Perhaps it’s time to suggest that the post-Snowden pendulum has swung too far in one direction -- in a direction of fear and mistrust," said Comey, speaking at the Brookings Institution in Washington in his first major policy speech since taking over the FBI 13 months ago.
"Justice may be denied because of a locked phone or an encrypted hard drive," he said.
The latest versions of smartphone operating systems from Apple and Google provide strong default encryption that cannot be broken even by the companies themselves -- as long as users store data like photos only on their own devices and not in the cloud.