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Sutherland Springs shooting heightens tensions between FBI and tech companies

The FBI is still gathering information about the Sutherland Springs shooter's motive. Tuesday law enforcement expressed frustration that they are unable to get information off of the suspect's phone. (CBS Austin)

The FBI is still gathering information about the Sutherland Springs shooter's motive. Tuesday law enforcement expressed frustration that they are unable to get information off of the suspect's phone.

"We are working very hard to get into the phone and that will continue until we find an answer," said FBI Special Agent Christopher Combs.

FBI officials said despite a search warrant, advanced encryptions and technology is keeping law enforcement from breaching the suspect's phone.

Dean of University of Texas's School of Information, Dr. Philip Doty, said the tech industry is tight lipped for a reason.

"While we might find a compelling reason, generally speaking, for the layers of security to be peeled off this particular device, doing so exposes millions of others to similar kinds of intrusion," said Doty.

But what if the phone or software manufacturer just kept how they unlocked this particular phone confidential? Doty said it's not that simple.

"Once the beginning of decryption happens, there is a record on the device itself," said Doty. "And I have no reason to believe that the FBI wouldn't scan that record and then use it to potentially compromise millions of others."

Doty also believes phone manufacturers have a right to deny access to law enforcement.

"In fact, they have a legal obligation to, by virtue of their contract with their users," said Doty. "Why? Because they say they will protect you. So yes, they have a legal right. The same way that you have a legal right to lock your door."

In the case of the shooter in San Bernardino, Apple violated a court order to crack the shooter's phone's passcode. The FBI ultimately paid for a private firm to hack into it and dropped a lawsuit against the tech giant.

Doty guesses in the coming years, there will be many more lawsuits and legislative action to guide future cases.

"We can expect this to happen time and time again," said Doty.

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