Eric Holder says 'worrisome' tech companies are eyeing encryption

US attorney general's remarks follow similar concerns from the FBI

For the second time in as many weeks, a senior U.S. government official has warned that widespread use of encryption could harm investigations.

In a speech to the Global Alliance Conference Against Child Sexual Abuse Online conference in Washington, D.C., U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said it's "worrisome" that companies are introducing systems that thwart the ability of law enforcement to quickly access a smartphone when a child is in danger.

"We would hope that technology companies would be willing to work with us to ensure that law enforcement retains the ability, with court-authorization, to lawfully obtain information in the course of an investigation, such as catching kidnappers and sexual predators," he said, according to a transcript provided by the U.S. Department of Justice.

"It is fully possible to permit law enforcement to do its job while still adequately protecting personal privacy," he said.

Holder's remarks echo those made last week by FBI Director James Comey, who told reporters that quick access by law enforcement to the contents of a smartphone could save lives in some kidnapping and terrorism cases.

The warnings come as Apple and Google are rolling out capabilities that enable millions of smartphone users to protect information on their devices so that no one, aside from someone in possession of a password, can access the data. Even the OS makers and phone companies won't have access.

Apple's iOS 8 allows users to encrypt some information on their phones while the next version of Google's Android OS, Android L, will enable full-phone encryption by default.

Carney accused smartphone companies of offering encryption as "something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law."

Some see the government requests as not without irony. Interest in encryption has been heightened by revelations from former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that several U.S. government programs are sucking up details on the communications of millions of people.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags U.S. Department of JusticeCriminalsecuritylegalencryption

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy


First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni


For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell


The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi


The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott


My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?