Plans by Apple and Google to increase the security on their smart devices have made FBI Director James Comey "very concerned," he told reporters on Thursday at FBI headquarters in Washington.
"I am a huge believer in the rule of law, but I am also a believer that no one in this country is beyond the law," said Comey, as reported by the Huffington Post. "What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law."
Comey's statement was in response to Apple's announcement of their new iOS 8 operating system last week, which no longer allows police to unlock password protected devices, even if they have a warrant. Apple achieves such security by massively overhauling the encryption techniques it uses, borrowing some of its algorithms from the U.S. goverment.
With previous operating systems, law enforcement could obtain a warrant and bring it along with an iPhone to Apple engineers, where they could then bypass the password and extract necessary data.
Apple pridefully boasted on a new privacy section of its website, "Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data. It's not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data in their possession running iOS 8."
The next day, Google also announced that their next Android operating system would provide the same protection.
But these new features only protect content stored on the device itself; law enforcement can still listen in on calls, and Apple or Google could still hand over data stored in their cloud services.
As expected, increased consumer privacy didn't settle very well with FBI Director Comey, who said that law enforcement sometimes need access to smart devices, as a matter of protecting the nation, of course.
"I like and believe very much that we should have to obtain a warrant from an independent judge to be able to take the content of anyone's closet or their smart phone," Comey said. "The notion that someone would market a closet that could never be opened - even if it involves a case involving a child kidnapper and a court order - to me does not make any sense."
Comey added that "there will come a day - well it comes every day in this business - when it will matter a great, great deal to the lives of people of all kinds that we be able to with judicial authorization gain access to a kidnapper's or a terrorist or a criminal's device," but he just wants to make sure that a good conversation is held before that day comes. "I'd hate to have people look at me and say, 'Well how come you can't save this kid,' 'how come you can't do this thing.'"
These privacy-centric moves by two of the largest tech giants are likely at least partially in response to last year's revelations made by whistleblower Edward Snowden, in which classified documents were released detailing the close relationship between the NSA and companies like Google and Apple. Such claims have been thoroughly denied by Google and Apple.