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How the FBI's numbers fumble moves the encryption debate

An array of cell phones mounted on a wall
Photo: Pau Barrena AFP via Getty Images

The FBI has long made the case that it needs access to encrypted cell phones to stop crime. But one of the key statistics the agency has recently cited to support that case was grossly inflated thanks to a programming goof, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Why it matters: Supporters of strong encryption will likely see this screw-up — the second of its kind that we’ve learned of in two months — as a problem of honesty. But there's a chance there may be a more material effect on the encryption debate in changing how risk gets balanced with safety.