Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE — PPI President: Law Enforcement Has Not Met Burden of Proof on Encryption

By / 2.18.2016

WASHINGTON—PPI President Will Marshall today released the following statement after a U.S. federal magistrate ordered Apple to help the Federal Bureau of Investigation unlock the encrypted iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters:

“The Progressive Policy Institute has long advocated a forceful U.S. response to the threat of jihadist terrorism. With the rise and spread of the so-called Islamic State, that threat has grown more acute than ever. That’s why we are usually inclined to give U.S. intelligence, military and law enforcement agencies the benefit of the doubt when they seek new tools to keep us safe.

“However, a federal court’s demand that Apple weaken encryption for its iPhones gives us pause. For many Americans, it may seem intuitively obvious that law enforcement should be able to ‘unlock’ a dead terrorists’ cellphone. But weaker encryption wouldn’t just apply to terrorists and criminals; it would jeopardize the privacy of any American with a smart phone.

“What’s more, other governments would doubtless follow Washington’s lead in demanding that phone makers develop software to help them get around encryption. We don’t want to endanger human rights and democracy activists around the world by giving dictators and authoritarian regimes new tools for surveillance and repression.

“We recognize that there is always a trade-off between privacy and security. To justify exposing the private communications of citizens to government scrutiny, U.S. security agencies would have to offer compelling evidence that gathering data from smart phones is essential to defusing the terrorist threat.  In our view, they have yet to meet this burden of proof.”