Security vs. privacy debate deals with information on phones and tablets
MARSHALL CO, Ky —
What’s more important, your privacy or your security? This question is getting national attention as the FBI and Apple argue over unlocking the San Bernadino shooter’s iPhone. Both deal with investigators wanting information stored in a phone or tablet.
Former Marshall County High School coach Ron Barnard entered a plea deal in September on charges related to sexual abuse with a minor. Detectives say finding pictures in his iPad was a turning point in the case.
After Ron Barnard was arrested in June 2014, it would take more than a year for him to change his plea to guilty.
"We may still be dragging this out; we could still be tied up in court," Marshall County Detective Lieutenant Matt Hilbrecht said.
Hilbrecht says an iPad with nude photos of multiple minors was key in cracking the case.
"It was the icing on the cake. It certainly provided a lot of additional evidence against him, and actually I think led to his plea bargain," Hilbrecht said.
He says he had no password for the device, so he had to send it to Apple in California. Ten months later he received a thumb drive from Apple with the phone’s data.
"There’s no denying you have this iPad in your possession, and you have these images of children at the school," Hilbrecht said.
The password is what detectives in Marshall County needed to break their case, but in the cases making national news it’s not as simple.
"The level of encryption in a phone in 2016 is much more advanced than a phone lets say in 2014," said Willie Kerns with SmartPath Technologies.
That means the phone’s data are scrambled when someone who doesn’t own the phone tries to get into it.
"It would be like a scrambled Microsoft Word document. You couldn’t really read it," Kerns said.
Kerns says, had Barnard’s iPad been encrypted, the case may have turned out differently. Barnard is currently serving a seven year prison sentence.
Barnard pleaded guilty to numerous charges, including first degree sexual abuse and using electronic means to engage in sexual activity with a minor. Detectives say they will unable to unlock phones that are encrypted, so it will impact cases like the Barnard cases. Technology experts say if they gave law enforcement a way to decrypt the phone, it would open up a back door to hackers.