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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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Linked by Dan Moren

FBI accidentally inflated number of phones it can’t unlock

The Washington Post:

The FBI has repeatedly provided grossly inflated statistics to Congress and the public about the extent of problems posed by encrypted cellphones, claiming investigators were locked out of nearly 7,800 devices connected to crimes last year when the correct number was much smaller, probably between 1,000 and 2,000, The Washington Post has learned.

Whoops.

This number was used as fuel for the debate over encrypting phones, even though the point is less about quantity of devices than about the inherent issues with providing a back door (or what proponents like to call “responsible” encryption, as though the creation of loopholes for decrypting the phones of private citizens can be considered “responsible”).

“The FBI’s initial assessment is that programming errors resulted in significant over-counting of mobile devices reported,” the FBI said in a statement Tuesday. The bureau said the problem stemmed from the use of three distinct databases that led to repeated counting of phones. Tests of the methodology conducted in April 2016 failed to detect the flaw, according to people familiar with the work.

Oh, yeah, these are definitely the people you want to listen to about technology.