How having a backdoor to the iPhone could aid local investigations

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Members of local law enforcement say not being able to get into iPhones has posed a challenge for local cases, and impeded prosecutions. Now Acting Erie County District Attorney is joining other DA’s across the state to recommend policy changes.

“To require companies which do business in New York to make their cell phones or their mobile phones accessible, again upon a lawful valid court order” said Michael Flaherty, Acting Erie County District Attorney.

Michael Flaherty says even if law enforcement has probable cause to believe a cell phone contains evidence of a crime, they are not able to go through  it because of the phones encryption. In the case of an opioid overdose – having that access could play a large role in aiding an investigation.

“The first responders get there and what’s next to the body or with the body, it’s almost always a phone. And on that phone we know that the last person the addict talked to either through text messages or phone calls or email is going to be the dealer and that information could be so helpful to law enforcement in identifying who sold this deadly dosage to this victim,” said Flaherty.

Flaherty says cell phone companies are not willing to help in these types of situations that law enforcement run into everyday, and that affects their ability to protect the public. In the national battle of apple versus FBI – FBI has said it cannot get into the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters without apple’s help.

“Apple’s argument against turning over it’s code even for this one phone is that this violates it’s due process, secondly another claim has been made that the code is protected by the First Amendment,” said Communications Technology Attorney, Martha Buyer.

“I understand the desire for privacy from the prying eyes of the government, but what we’re talking about is the inability of law enforcement to get information that a judge has said they’re entitled to get,” said Flaherty.

The Erie County District Attorney’s Office will be joining other DA’s across the state to push for policy changes and get lawmakers on board. But it may be a while before any changes are made.

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