FBI Overstated Number of Encrypted Devices it Could Not Access Last Year

According to the Washington Post, the FBI "provided grossly inflated statistics to Congress and the public" about the number of encrypted cellphones inaccessible to law enforcement. The FBI stated it was locked out of 7,800 devices, but a subsequent review suggested the actual number is about 1,200. EPIC President Marc Rotenberg told POLITICO that the revelation was "a very serious matter" that "calls into question" the FBI's other statements about "the scope of electronic surveillance in the United States." According to the federal wiretap reports, in 2016 a total of 68 federal wiretaps were reported as being encrypted, of which 53 could not be decrypted. In a 2016 debate before the American Bar Association, former FBI Director James Comey said the FBI was locked out of about 650 phones. Rotenberg countered that 3.1 million phones were stolen or lost in a year and subject to misuse without strong encryption.

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