Photo credit: Thomas Good
Currently in New York, Matthew Titone (pictured right), a Democratic member of the 61st district state assembly, is trying to pass a bill that would charge retailers who sell smartphones that cannot be broken into by police a whopping $2,500. If you're reading this on an iPhone with a passcode, or an Android device with encryption turned on, your device would have cost your retailer $2,500 to sell it to you in New York. That's because these devices are protected by encryption, and only the owner can unlock it. This protects your personal information, banking details, photos, credit cards, contacts, documents, and emails from hackers, thieves, and yes, even the police. Of course, you do need some protection from the police, and not only if you're a criminal. Police have taken photos off of women's phones and posted them online. Police are human, and just as fallible as civilians. Sometimes more fallible, as they find themselves in a position of power. While some use that position to protect others, some use it to abuse, harass, and violate.
Maybe you're thinking police should be able to have a black door into your phone if they have a warrant. If you trust all police officers that much (that's questionably odd, to trust all people just because of their profession), then you're probably comfortable with this decision. But surely you don't trust hackers. Hackers are great at getting information from “secure” locations. If a universal phone unlock deencryption key exists, it will fall into the wrong hands, and then there will be nothing anyone could do to stop hackers and thieves from getting your personal information.
There's another problem though. Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush recently took phone unlocking a step further. Bush, like his brother, seems to be in favor of warrantless searches, violations of the 5th amendment, to unlock anyone's phone a government agency sees fit. Give an inch, and these politicians will take a mile.