encryption backdoors

New Legislation Would Force Tech Companies to Provide Encryption Backdoors

Lead image via Wikimedia Commons

The battle over phone encryption backdoors shows no signs of slowing down, as Apple and the FBI exchange aggressive legal briefs over the company’s refusal to unlock the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone for the FBI. The Justice Department has accused Apple of trying to make their phones “warrant-proof” and trying to usurp government authority, accusations the company called “offensive,” “desperate,” and “intended to smear” them.

U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee leaders are now drafting a bill which would penalize companies like Apple that resist court-ordered requests to unlock encrypted hardware. Intelligence Committee Chairman Senator Richard Burr and Vice Chair Senator Dianne Feinstein are reportedly close to finalizing the bill ahead of its introduction to the Senate. The bipartisan bill would allow contempt of court charges and civil penalties to be brought against companies that resist or refuse government decryption requests.

Legislators from Apple’s home state of California have also taken sides against the tech company, drafting a state bill that would penalize companies that release mobile operating systems without built-in encryption backdoors. Assembly Bill 1681, introduced this January by Assembly Member Jim Cooper, “would require a smartphone that is manufactured on or after January 1, 2017, and sold in California, to be capable of being decrypted and unlocked by its manufacturer or its operating system provider.” Companies that “knowingly failed to comply” would be fined $2,500 per device sold in the state. New York legislators are reportedly planning a similar bill.

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