New Apple encryption locks out police from iPhones, iPads

Apple said Wednesday night that it is making it impossible for the company to turn over data from most iPhones or iPads to police — even when they have a search warrant — taking a hard new line as tech companies attempt to blunt allegations that they have too readily participated in government efforts to collect user data.

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The move, announced with the publication of a new privacy policy tied to the release of Apple’s latest mobile operating system, iOS 8, amounts to an engineering solution to a legal quandary: Rather than comply with binding court orders, Apple has reworked its latest encryption in a way that makes it almost impossible for the company — or anyone but the device’s owner — to gain access to the vast troves of user data typically stored on smartphones or tablet computers.

The key is the encryption that Apple mobile devices automatically put in place when a user selects a passcode, making it difficult for anyone who lacks that passcode to access the information within, including photos, e-mails, and recordings. Apple once kept possession of encryption keys that unlocked devices for legally binding police requests, but will no longer do so for iOS 8, it said in a new guide for law enforcement.

‘‘Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data,’’ Apple said on its website. ‘‘So it’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8.”

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