FBI Reported More Encrypted Devices Than It Encountered

According to The Washington Post, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation misrepresented the number of encrypted devices that served as roadblocks in investigation by a number well into the thousands. To be specific, the organization reported running into around 7,800 problem devices last year, when the true number was somewhere closer to 2,000 or even 1,000. This reportedly inflated figure was used extensively FBI Director Christopher Wray to demonstrate the fact that encryption technology being widely available to consumers is a serious liability when it comes to investigations that involve the digital world.

The FBI only learned of the miscount about a month ago. An initial audit turned up a figure of roughly 1,200 encrypted devices hindering active FBI investigations, but the bureau is currently conducting a second audit, which it is confident will yield a larger number of problem devices. Even so, Wray and the FBI have maintained the position that encrypted personal electronic devices, a phenomenon known coloquially as "going dark", is a serious problem for the FBI, and that each of the thousand-plus encrypted devices that the bureau was unable to access was tied directly to some form of threat to the American people. Meanwhile, privacy advocates, tech companies and other parties have been battling the FBI over encryption, and severely limiting the bureau's abilities when it comes to such devices in the process.

The encryption debate, especially as it pertains to the FBI, has been going on for quite some time. Currently, the prevalent arguments are privacy advocates saying that people have a right to not have the contents of their personal electronics accessed without consent, versus the FBI saying that the information on encrypted devices can sometimes be essential to an investigation, and that there needs to be some way for the bureau to access encrypted devices with proper legal authority. The most prevalent tactic pursued by the FBI and other organizations is a "backdoor" approach wherein manufacturers, tech companies and the like would be free to allow users to encrypt devices, so long as there was some sort of "backdoor" put in so that legal authorities could get into the device. Naturally, the argument that this could easily be exploited and could be abused by authorities is the strongest current counter-argument.

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