Apple is planning to upgrade its privacy features in its iOS with a access to data in locked iPhones. There were buzz about something similar being underway, but last month, and now seems confirmed. The move is likely to be a major setback for law enforcement agencies.
The new privacy defense is possibly an update of USB Restricted Mode will obstruct devices from gaining access to the phone after an hour after the phone was last unlocked. This will render devices used by law enforcement agencies like the Gray Key device ineffectual. The media isn’t very clear about when the update will be launched. Mac Rumors has reported that the upcoming feature was tested in iOS 12. The same was also reported by Motherboard. According to Apple iOS 12 is compatible will all iPhones including 5S and SE. Apple hasn’t made any comments regarding the issue.
Law enforcement agencies are clearly miffed with the news. Chuck Cohen, who works with the Indiana state police has seen the move as inimical to kids as it will lead to dearth of evidence. Interestingly, the tech giant in a statement to the Times has claimed the updates is not going to make things difficult for cops. Fred Sainz, Apple spokesperson has asserted Apple respects law enforcement and does not design developments to thwart the efforts of the cops to so their jobs.
Reports also suggest that this may be a retaliation against an ex Apple engineer who founded Gray shift which manufactures Gray Key (a $15000 device). This device provides access to the information in the locked iPhones through the lightening port several weeks after it was last unlocked. Gray Key has been drawing flak for a while now as a threat to the privacy of even law-abiding citizens. Joseph Hall, who is chief technologist at the Centre for Democracy and Technology, has pointed out that it is not certain that Gray shift will limit the sale of its devices only to the law enforcement. Like any other enterprise Gray shift will also have to draw some boundaries and make some self-enquiries in order to develop more ethical business practices.
Given the recent development such questions may not be immediately answered. However, if viewed through the angle of consumer privacy this may not be a bad move to make, given the frequent breach of privacy for ulterior motives.