By way of the Macalope's John Evans putdown, I came across this old but still true and relevant article by Marcy Wheeler over at Salon entitled America’s huge iPhone lie: Why Apple is being accused of coddling child molesters. The article starts by noting that encryption hardly ever plays a roll in FBI cases (only four times last year) and that much of what law enforcement has to say on the matter amounts to lies.
Wheeler also points out that a substantial part of the “lost information” resulting from encryption on smart phones is obtainable elsewhere. For example, one complaint is that the recent location data collected by the iPhone is unavailable on encrypted phones but is available from the phone carriers because the phones log onto cell sites and thereby reveal their location.
Although law enforcement assures us that their concern is about being able to access data for which they've obtained a warrant, Wheeler's article suggests that, in fact, their concern is about losing access to data for which they don't have a warrant, and therefore a right, to see. Wheeler says the real issue is that the encryption makes it harder to do searches without getting a warrant for which they often don't have sufficient evidence.
If law enforcement wants to retain this access, they should be honest about what they might lose and why every iPhone user should be asked to carry a phone that is susceptible to criminal targeting as a result.
She makes the final point that smart phone encryption offers real benefits to everyone, not just pedophiles, and that the government should recognize that and stop pretending Apple is benefiting only law breakers. It's a good article and definitely worth reading.