Apple announced Wednesday that it would block access to a port that law enforcement uses to break into iPhones during criminal investigations, a move that could reignite debate over whether tech companies are doing enough to help authorities probing serious crimes.
Apple said the change, which would disable the Lightning port on the bottom of iPhones an hour after users lock their phones, is part of software updates to be rolled out in the fall. Designed to better protect the private information of iPhone users, it will have little obvious effect on most people using the devices but will make it far more difficult for investigators to use extraction tools that attach through the port to collect the contents of seized iPhones.
The change is not intended to thwart law enforcement efforts, Apple said. “We’re constantly strengthening the security protections in every Apple product to help customers defend against hackers, identity thieves and intrusions into their personal data,” the company said in a statement. “We have the greatest respect for law enforcement, and we don’t design our security improvements to frustrate their efforts to do their jobs.”