New encryption bill would compel companies to hand over data to US law enforcement

Two US senators are working on a bill that would force US companies to hand over unencrypted data to law enforcement, should a judge order them to.

Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, and Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, authored the bill, stating, "No person or entity is above the law", clearly referring to situations such as the ongoing struggle between US law enforcement and Apple over encryption.

The bill states that if a court orders a company to hand over data, they must. If the data in question is encrypted, then the firm must assist in decrypting it.

Of course, the bill wouldn't only affect Apple. Any firm that uses encryption in its products would be affected. For example, Whatsapp recently implemented end to end encryption for its billion users.

It also doesn't explicitly forbid companies from using encryption in their products. It just means that if the firm does use encryption and a court orders it to extract data, it must do what it can to help.

In other words, Apple wouldn't have had any grounds to refuse to assist the FBI in extracting data from the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone 5c had this bill been passed prior to the case.

Law enforcement has been pressing for such a bill for some time. At the same time, privacy advocates and technology companies warn that it could undermine security.

The bill has not yet been introduced, so it's still subject to changes. Burr and Feinstein said the following in a joint statement:

"We're still working on finalizing a discussion draft and as a result can’t comment on language in specific versions of the bill. We’re still in the process of soliciting input from stakeholders and hope to have final language ready soon.”

While it's still a preliminary draft, you can still read it below.

Source: The Hill via CNET

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