Cy Vance: Phone Encryption Can Halt Justice

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Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance says cell phone and app encryption impedes law enforcement officials' ability to investigate and prosecute crime.
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Click on the audio player above to hear this interview.

In the wake of last month's terrorist attacks in Paris, Congress has called for new legislation to investigate encrypted mobile communications that go through apps like WhatsApp and Facebook.

Unnamed officials recently told the Washington Post that the terrorists used such apps to plan the attacks in November, an issue FBI Director James Comey has warned Congress about for months.

"The world has changed in the last two years," Comey said last July as he testified before the Senate. "Encryption has moved [from] being something that is available, to something that's the default."

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. says encryption is also a problem on the state and local level, especially after companies like Google and Apple began encrypting user communications last year.

"The decision to change the ground rules was made by Apple and Google independently, with no notice to law enforcement that I'm aware of," he tells The Takeaway. "They themselves have decided that they know where to draw the line between privacy and public safety. And they've drawn it where it also happens to fit their economic interests."

What you'll learn from this segment: 

  • Why Vance believes phone encryption can halt justice.
  • Why this technology is a problem for state and local law enforcement.
  • How the government is working with the private sector on this issue.