On Tuesday morning, The Washington Post published an opinion piece by Ronald T. Hosko, a former assistant director at the FBI, about how Apple’s new encryption techniques would have led to the death of a victim in a case he oversaw. Turns out he was totally wrong. The newspaper just issued a correction.
The paragraph in question is the same one we called out in our coverage of the issue earlier. However, that paragraph has now been removed and replaced with a different one. The correction reads:
Editors note: This story incorrectly stated that Apple and Google’s new encryption rules would have hindered law enforcement’s ability to rescue the kidnap victim in Wake Forest, N.C. This is not the case. The piece has been corrected.
That’s a pretty big error considering the entire premise of the column was based on how the new encryption techniques would have led to the victim being killed. Again, the original paragraph which has now been removed reads:
It also means law enforcement officials won’t be able to look at the range of data stored on the device, even with a court-approved warrant. Had this technology been used by the conspirators in our case, our victim would be dead. The perpetrators would likely be freely plotting their next revenge attack.
The new, watered down paragraph reads:
That kind information can help law enforcement officials solve big cases quickly. For example, criminals sometimes avoid phone interception by communicating plans via Snapchat or video. Their phones contain contacts, texts, and geo-tagged data that can help police track down accomplices. These new rules will make it impossible for us to access that information. They will create needless delays that could cost victims their lives.*
Well, that hardly sounds definite. A more definitive thing to say is that Apple’s new encryption methods make it easier for iPhone users to protect their own privacy, which is a good thing.