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NYPD commissioner: We're not trying to sneak into your smartphone's back door

Law enforcement is not trying to circumvent device encryption in seeking access to smartphones and computers of suspected criminals and terrorists, New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said Tuesday.

Technology companies should try to cooperate with authorities, Bratton told CNBC's "Squawk Box," responding to the questions raised by Apple's refusal to help the FBI crack the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino terrorists.

After going back and forth in the courts, the FBI unlocked the device with help from a third party.

"We're not trying to get through the back door. We're trying with a court order to go through the front door," said Bratton, commissioner since 2014 in his second stint leading the NYPD. "We're not sneaking into these devices, into these systems."

Bratton, who also was police chief in Los Angeles from 2002 to 2009, said the NYPD has about 500 smartphones that officers can't get into because of the encrypted technology. He predicted the courts and Congress will eventually be forced to sort the issue out.

The main reason tech firms and their customers object to authorities being able to access data on devices: "Everybody likes their privacy," Bratton said. "Although you won't know it in the world today, where everyone is on Facebook and social media."

While encrypted devices present a challenge, Bratton said public social media posts are a "phenomenal boon to law enforcement" because officers can access everything people share about themselves.

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