Apple is working on an anti-snooping technology that will prevent law enforcement agencies from tracking mobile phone users’ locations or read their messages. According to a report in The Telegraph on Sunday, the iPhone maker has patented the technology that encrypts information between an iPhone and a mobile network. “The technology would hinder so-called ‘Stingray’ boxes, which mimic phone masts and can be used to track phone users’ locations and listen in on phone calls,” said the report. Stingrays can be exploited by hackers, too, to access mobile users’ data.
The Apple technology would put end-to-end encryption to a phone’s unique ID, thus inhibiting the use of ‘Stingray’ boxes used to track users’ locations. Also known as “IMSI” catchers, “Stingrays” are used by some police forces in Britain but the extent of their use has not been revealed. Apple is fighting global pressure to make it easier for law enforcement agencies to access data from an encrypted iPhone. Australia and Britain have passed laws in this direction while India is also considering a law that would give authorities access to some data. Apple refused the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) demand to unlock an iPhone owned by the shooter who killed 14 people at the Inland Regional Centre in San Bernardino, California in December 2015. The FBI finally gained access to the encrypted iPhone of one of the terrorists without Apple’s help.