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Your Smartphone Password, Please

A new push to provide automatic mobile device encryption from both Apple and Google may force an uncomfortable scenario where a law enforcement official would need to insist you unlock your device as part of a search. Both iOS 8 and the forthcoming Android L operating systems will encrypt your data by default. Encrypting the data on a mobile phone or tablet explicitly keeps it from being accessed without the passcode - and that requires the device owners cooperation, possibly under penalty of obstructing a lawful search. But perversely, if you use the cloud storage with your device - such as iCloud or Google Drive - that may make the need to access the locally-encrypted data a moot point ('cos we all know the cloud is the wild, wild west of data security).
So now, if law enforcement wants into your phone, they’ll need to get you to enter your passcode. One Apple competitor felt the heat. Google-owned Android quickly issued an “us, too!” announcement, saying that its next operating system will also encrypt data on smartphones by default for those using a passcode. Privacy advocates are thrilled. It’s not just about making it easier to protect civil liberties in the U.S. but exporting it to countries with restrictive governments where it will now be harder to get dissidents’ iPhone chats.


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