The San Diego Police Foundation is in hot water after purchasing iPhone unlocking technology for the city’s police department.
The foundation, which is sustained by donations from corporations, purchased GrayKey for the police department. GrayKey launched several years ago to meet law enforcement’s demand to be able to unlock iPhones, allowing them to bypass the encryption locking data on the devices. While Apple continues to make the devices harder to unlock, GrayKey continues to upgrade their products to adapt to Apple’s ever-changing technology. The company also offers an online version of its tool that can be used a limited amount of times, while the offline tool can be used indefinitely.
Motherboard was able to confirm the purchase via the police department’s emails.
“The GrayKey was purchased by the Police Foundation and donated to the lab,” an official from the San Diego Police Department’s Crime Laboratory wrote in a 2018 email to a contracting officer. “The EULA I sent you [is] for a software upgrade that will allow us to get into the latest generation of Apple phones. Our original license was a 1-year license agreement paid for by the Police Foundation.”
In a 2019 email, GrayKey was discussed again amongst two other officials.
“This is the phone unlocking technique that the Police Foundation purchased for us (for 15k). Apparently, the software ‘upgrade’ costs the same as the initial purchase each year. :/ They are the only ones that offer a tool that can crack iPhones, so they charge A LOT!,” the email read.
The purchase only fuels the fire of activists who are calling out police foundations for using privately run charities to raise funds from large corporations such as Wall Street banks to purchase items that they then give to their respective police departments. Since police organizations are private, they are often not subject to public records laws except for when they directly interact with the police department.
“Our end goal is to have an intervention on the funneling of private money into police forces and into policing,” Scott Roberts, senior director of criminal justice campaigns at Color of Change, told Politico recently. “If the police foundations existed to raise money for the families of fallen police officers, we wouldn’t say we need to abolish police foundations. It’s the specific type of work that they’re doing that we object to.”