Is Apple Too Advanced for Law Enforcement?

It seems Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has created trouble for an unlikely group — law enforcement agencies — which, in turn, has given the company a surprising selling point for one of its services.

According to the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, “it is impossible to intercept iMessages between two Apple devices,” even if a federal judge has approved a court order, because of level of encryption used in the iMessage chat service.

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Apple’s iMessage was only launched back in the middle of 2011, making it almost 2 years old, yet in that short time, the service became the most popular encrypted chat program in history. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has said the service had already been used to send 300 billion messages as of last autumn.

It may just be that iMessage’s popularity was driven by the iPhone’s, iPad’s, and other Apple devices’ popularity. But, people do love their right to privacy, and the “secure end-to-end encryption” that Apple said is built into the service may have drawn in users that wanted that protection for their private communications…

The worry from law enforcement agencies is that illicit communications may be taking place through iMessage and similarly encrypted channels that the agencies can’t properly tap. To combat this reality, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has pushed for new legislation that could make such service providers help the agencies acquire usable copies of targeted communications.

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A new law could force Apple to loosen the security on its iMessage service in order support law enforcement agencies. While it would be unlikely, a sense of reduced privacy and security in communications could drive down the popularity of iMessages and hurt Apple to some degree.

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