Law enforcement also has an advantage in getting their hands on digital devices. Despite claims by Apple, Google, and even the Department of Justice that smartphones are largely impenetrable, thousands of law enforcement agencies have tools that can infiltrate the latest phones to extract data.
“The police are facing a data explosion today,” said Yossi Carmil, executive director of Cellebrite, an Israeli company that has sold data extraction tools to more than 5,000 law enforcement agencies, including hundreds of small law enforcement agencies in the US states. “The solutions are there. Access to the data is not really a challenge. “
It is also easier for the police to access the data stored in the cloud. Technology companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft regularly share customer personal data such as photos, emails, contacts and text messages with arrest warrants with the authorities.
From January 2013 to June 2020, Apple handed over the contents of tens of thousands of iCloud accounts to US law enforcement agencies in 13,371 cases.
And on Friday, Apple announced that in 2018 it unwittingly turned over phone records to the Department of Justice of Congress officials, their families, and at least two members of Congress, including California Representative Adam B. Schiff, now chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. The subpoena was part of an investigation by the Trump administration into classified information leaks.
However, eavesdropping on communications is an annoying problem for the police. While criminals used to talk through channels that were relatively easy to tap – like phones, email, and simple text messages – most now use encrypted messengers, which they don’t.
Two of the world’s most popular messaging services, Apple’s iMessage and Facebook’s WhatsApp, use so-called end-to-end encryption, which means that only the sender and recipient can see the messages. Even the companies don’t have access to their content, so Apple and Facebook can argue they can’t turn it over to law enforcement.