The tech community is up in arms against the official version of an anti-encryption bill by Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), which was released on Wednesday.
The Compliance with Court Orders Act of 2016 would require companies like Apple and Google to decrypt customers’ data upon request by court order. Technology and privacy groups have taken a stand against the measure and the bill has little support in Washington, D.C
“We have serious concerns with the proposal released today because it effectively puts limits on data security and we are concerned it would ultimately undermine security, innovation, and public safety,” Software Alliance President Victoria Espinel said in a statement. “We appreciate the work by Senators Burr and Feinstein in putting forward an actual proposal, but we believe this bill would stunt the development and use of security technologies such as encryption, both today and into the future.”
The App Association, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation and Electronic Frontier Foundation drafted similar criticism. The ACLU called an early draft of the bill released last week “a clear threat to everyone’s privacy and security.” The White House declined to offer public support for draft legislation, according to Reuters.
Still, Sens. Feinstein and Burr believe they are taking the right measures to fight crime and terrorism.
“The bill we have drafted would simply provide that, if a court of law issues an order to render technical assistance or provide decrypted data, the company or individual would be required to do so,” Sen. Feinstein said in a statement. “Today, terrorists and criminals are increasingly using encryption to foil law enforcement efforts, even in the face of a court order. We need strong encryption to protect personal data, but we also need to know when terrorists are plotting to kill Americans.”
Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) pledged a filibuster of the bill if it came before the Senate.
“This flawed bill would leave Americans more vulnerable to stalkers, identity thieves, foreign hackers and criminals,” Sen. Wyden said in a statement. “And yet it will not make us safer from terrorists or other threats.”
Another anti-encryption bill deflated in the California Assembly on Wednesday. The bill proposed a mandated $2,500-per-day fine for companies refusing to decrypt data.
“The bill, both before and after it was amended, posed a serious threat to smartphone security,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote in a press release about the California legislation. “It would have forced companies to dedicate resources to finding ways to defeat their own encryption or insert backdoors to facilitate decryption. As a result, the bill would have essentially prohibited companies from offering full disk encryption for their phones.”
Lawmakers have placed some urgency on encryption legislation due to the recent showdown between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Apple. In February, the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles told Apple that it must provide “reasonable technical assistance” to investigators aiming to unlock an iPhone 5C formerly owned by San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook. Apple refused to create a “backdoor” to its product, but it was revealed earlier this week that the FBI paid professional hackers to crack the phone.
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