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Feds: iPhone iMessages stump our investigations

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Apple’s iPhone messaging service is so effective at protecting privacy, the Drug Enforcement Administration has complained, that it’s hampering their ability to investigate even when they have a court order.

CNet reported the news after viewing what they termed a “law enforcement sensitive” document:

The DEA’s “Intelligence Note” says that iMessage came to the attention of the agency’s San Jose, Calif., office as agents were drafting a request for a court order to perform real-time electronic surveillance under Title III of the Federal Wiretap Act. They discovered that records of text messages already obtained from Verizon Wireless were incomplete because the target of the investigation used iMessage: “It became apparent that not all text messages were being captured.”

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This isn’t the first time technology has stumped the Feds: I reported last year that the FBI’s investigative powers were curtailed by Tor anonymous browsing technology.

But I’m skeptical about how much of this latest complaint is actually about impenetrable encryption versus law enforcement simply being annoyed at having to work for the data it’s interested in. Telecom operators have traditionally been happy to provide law enforcement with data on demand and serve as a one-stop shop for requests, complete with a menu of pricing for types of data available.

With Apple’s iMessages, the telecom operators can no longer hand over that type of data since they no longer control it. That might mean law enforcement’s job is a little more difficult, but it also gives consumers a lot more protection and control over their own data.

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