Senate “encryption backdoor” bill goes public, as critics prepare to fight
Apple may have never gotten its day in court to make its case for why the FBI shouldn’t be able to force it to develop software capable of breaking iOS security, but the fight over access to user data is far from over. The controversy surrounding the pressure the feds put on Apple to help it crack into a secured iPhone 5c was just the most recent and most public instance of the ongoing clash between the government and tech companies over encryption. And just as those companies behind the software and services that power our mobile devices aren’t backing down from their commitment to user privacy and data security, neither is the government backing down from its desire to get access to any data it deems necessary – technological restrictions be damned. That drive has managed to generate some new legislation, and today senators Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein release their Compliance with Court Orders Act of 2016.
The bill, which leaked in draft form last week, requires that tech companies be ready to either hand over unencrypted user data when so ordered, or to provide the technical assistance necessary in order to render readable whatever data the government already has. While you won’t see the word “backdoor” anywhere, the requirement that such companies be able to produce this data when law enforcement demands it appears to preclude the use of strong end-to-end encryption.
The bill still hasn’t been formally introduced just yet, but opposition is already gearing up to fight back, with Oregon senator Ron Wyden promising a filibuster if and when the bill is presented on the Senate floor.
Will the bill manage to push through as written? Will its proponents be forced to come up with a compromise if they ever hope to see it become law? No matter what happens, the fight against strong encryption is far from over.