The answers to the shooting death of a Louisiana woman could be locked in her iPhone 5, but without a password not even Apple can access the data.
It’s an unsolved murder from April that law enforcement officials say is symbolic of a growing number of cases stalled by amped-up security features on Apple and Google-operated devices.
Brittney Mills, 29, was 8 months pregnant when she opened the door to someone who wanted to borrow her car in Baton Rouge on April 24. She refused and was shot several times. Her baby, Brenton Mills, died a week later.
Mills had the iOS-8 operating software on her phone, but the encryption system – intended to protect users’ privacy – has made owners’ text messages, phone calls and contact lists inaccessible since September 2014. In the Louisiana case, cell phone data, including a personal diary, was not backed up on iCloud.
A subpoena seeking the data resulted in a missive from Apple saying that because the phone is “running iOS version 8 or a later version” the “extraction cannot be completed.”
About 1,300 miles northeast of Baton Rouge, frustrated prosecutors in New Orleans have an ally in Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.
Vance has become a national voice in the push against the revved-up encryption efforts of the world’s largest phone software companies to allow law enforcement access to critical information. He met last week in his office with East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore and the Mills family.
“We use our cell phones every day and so do the criminals,” Vance said after meeting with Barbara, 60, and Tia Mills, 34, the mother and sister of the victim, who vented their frustrations.