According to Wired in nine cases during 2013, state police were unable to break the encryption used by criminal suspects they were investigating.
This is not high, but it is more than twice as many cases as in 2012, when police reported encryption preventing them from successfully spying on a criminal suspect for the first time.
To put the figure into perspective, Federal and state police eavesdropped on US suspects’ phone calls, text messages, and other communications at least 3,500 times in 2013. Of those thousands of cases, only 41 involved encryption at all. In 32 cases police managed to get around suspects’ privacy protections to eavesdrop on their targets.
The figures seem to suggest that warnings from government agencies like the FBI that the free availability of encryption tools will eventually lead to a dystopian future where criminals and terrorists use privacy tools to make their communications invisible to police.
This complaint has become common. Last year the Drug Enforcement Agency leaked an internal report complaining that Apple’s iMessage encryption was blocking their investigations of drug dealers.
However the statistics from police reports shows that encryption use is on the rise, even if the number of cases remains small and most encryption use is pointless.