Should Law Enforcement Have Access to Encrypted Devices and Apps?

Law enforcement’s ability to access encrypted devices and apps, a subject of ongoing national debate, is an issue of public safety, according to a recent Cleveland.com article. Law enforcement argues that their inability to access encrypted devices hinders critical investigations and compromises public safety. One solution proposed by law enforcement is for tech companies to build a “back door” into encrypted services specifically for law enforcement access. However, tech companies argue that providing such access would leave them vulnerable to hackers, which would not only put individual liberties at risk, but also national security. Emily Mikes, an associate attorney at F|G, says, “Building in backdoors leaves cybernetworks vulnerable to hackers and terrorists. As cybersecurity is one of the top national security priorities, any proposed solution to access encrypted information must take into account individual liberties and possible national security implications.”

Beyond public safety and national-security concerns, the advent of new technology also impacts Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights. For instance, the Fifth Amendment is implicated when the government compels an individual to provide a password to allow for access to password-protected devices. New technology will continue to raise complicated legal issues for the foreseeable future, requiring careful attention to national-security interests, privacy rights, and Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights.