U.S. Congress Wants To Halt State Bans on Phone Encryption
A bipartisan group of legislators in the U.S. Congress yesterday introduced a bill that would pre-empt state-level efforts to prohibit end-to-end encryption of smartphone communications. The ENCRYPT Act of 2016 is aimed at recent bills in New York and California that would require phonemakers to include built-in override protections against encryption on their devices.
U.S. House Rep. Ted Lieu (D, California), one of the sponsors of the ENCRYPT Act (Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications), said the measure is designed to prevent confusion that could result from a "patchwork of 50 different encryption standards."
The congressional bill also aims to protect citizens who expect their smartphone-based communications to be safe from potential cyberthreats, according to its sponsors. The legislation has so far received support from organizations including the Internet Association, the Information Technology Industry Council and the Application Developers Council.
No to 'Backdoors and Golden Keys'
The debate over the impacts of encryption on privacy and security has been fueled by numerous recent developments, including the increased availability of end-to-end encryption by default and concerns about the potential ability of terrorists to plan attacks through private electronic communications.
Security experts and technology company leaders such as Apple CEO Tim Cook have argued that requirements for encryption backdoors could leave openings for both "good" and "bad" guys to intercept phone and text conversations. Law enforcement officials such as FBI Director James Comey, on the other hand, have suggested that tech firms are enabling criminals to break laws and evade detection.
However, U.S. House Rep. Blake Farenthold (R, Texas), another co-sponsor of the ENCRYPT Act, said efforts to set different encryption rules in different states will actually make it more difficult for law enforcement officials.
"The California and New York proposals do not solve the problem," Farenthold said in a statement. "We need to keep free market and trade between the several states robust, not promote a false sense of security and require things like backdoors and golden keys that can be exploited by hackers."
First introduced last year, Bill A8093 in New York would require any smartphone sold or leased in the state to be "capable of being decrypted and unlocked by its manufacturer or its operating system provider." Similar legislation being considered in California is aimed at helping police investigate crimes involving human trafficking and other offenses, according to its sponsor, Democratic Assembly member Jim Cooper.
'Breath of Fresh Air'
Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology, told us that he thinks the ENCRYPT Act is "a real breath of fresh air."
"In a time of increasing cybercrime and online insecurity, and when our devices -- phones, tablets, laptops -- hold our most intimate secrets and sensitive information from health records to tax records, it's very important to ensure that regular consumers can protect themselves with the most secure technology available on the market, and the ENCRYPT Act would make sure that is possible," Hall said.
Supporters of end-to-end encryption have also emphasized that such protection is essential for everyone from people conducting financial transactions online to political activists protesting oppressive governments.
"Encryption protects billions of global Internet users from countless daily threats to the financial system, sensitive infrastructure (like our electric grid), and from repressive governments looking to stifle speech and democracy," said Michael Beckerman, president and CEO of the Internet Association, in a statement. "The Internet industry has great respect for the role law enforcement plays in our national security, but without strong encryption, we are all less safe."
Posted: 2016-02-18 @ 2:08pm PT
I think every person needs to have privacy.