Along with Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-California, Senator Richard Burr released a bill today
aimed at forcing smartphone manufacturers to hand over data to the federal government "in a timely manner responsive, intelligible information or data, or appropriate technical assistance to obtain such information."
The nine-page bill, which is called the "Compliance with Court Orders Act of 2016
," does not establish new penalties for companies that can't comply, but it would effectively make "hard encryption," which was at the center of Apple's fight with the FBI over an iPhone used by one of the attackers in the San Bernardino shooting
, against the law. That case was resolved last month when the FBI hacked into the phone without Apple's help. But Burr's bill aims to force Apple (and other smartphone companies) to comply more expeditiously.
"We're still working on finalizing a discussion draft and as a result can't comment on language in specific versions of the bill," Burr and Feinstein said in a joint statement. "However, the underlying goal is simple: when there's a court order to render technical assistance to law enforcement or provide decrypted information, that court order is carried out. No individual or company is above the law. We're still in the process of soliciting input from stakeholders and hope to have final language ready soon."
The general response to the bill, which has been in the works for months
, was that it was too far-reaching and generally pretty awful. Techdirt called it “more ridiculous than expected
,” and Motherboard's Sean Vitka called it a “threat to American privacy
,” while WIRED's Andy Greenberg said it was a “privacy nightmare
.” In the WIRED piece, the New America Foundation's Kevin Bankston was quoted as saying, "I gotta say in my nearly 20 years of work in tech policy this is easily the most ludicrous, dangerous, technically illiterate proposal I’ve ever seen."
In a statement, ACLU legislative counsel Neema Singh Guliani said, "Instead of heeding the warnings of experts, the senators have written a bill that ignores economic, security, and technical reality. It would force companies to deliberately weaken the security of their products by providing backdoors into the devices and services that everyone relies on."
On Twitter, the response was even colder.
Oh well. We can't say we didn't see this coming