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How Apple and Google help police bypass iPhone, Android lock screens

Internal police documents reveal the legal processes that law enforcement agencies use to require Apple and Google to bypass the lock screens on seized mobile phones.

Training materials prepared by the Sacramento sheriff’s office include a fill-in-the-blanks court order that, with a judge’s signature, requires Apple to “assist law enforcement agents” with “bypassing the cell phone user’s passcode so that the agents may search the iPhone.”

It’s more difficult to gain access to a locked Android phone. The document (PDF page 25) says that according to T-Mobile and Google, the only way to “unlock the phone is to have the Gmail user name and password.” But Google employs good security — presumably a so-called cryptographic hash for passwords — and does “not have access to particular e-mail account passwords, as they are encrypted.”

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