Attempts by states like California and New York to ban the sale of encrypted phones could be overruled by federal law. The Verge reports that a cross-party bill is being introduced today in Congress by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX).
The ENCRYPT Act of 2016, or by its longer name, the Ensuring National Constitutional Rights of Your Private Telecommunications Act, would preempt state and local government encryption laws. The two men said today they are “deeply concerned” that varying bills surrounding encryption would endanger the country as well as the competitiveness of American companies. The argument is that it wouldn’t be easy or even feasible to tailor phone encryption capabilities for specific states.
New York last month kicked off the attempt to ban the sale of encrypted phones in the state unless the manufacturer built in a back door, with a virtually identical bill proposed in California later the same month. The moves – which would effectively outlaw the sale of current iPhones in both states – followed similar proposals in the UK last year …
Apple’s strong stance on encryption – using strong encryption for data stored on iPhones and end-to-end encryption of both iMessages and FaceTime – has brought the company into conflict with numerous government and law enforcement agencies, among them the U.S. Attorney General, the FBI, the DOJ and the Homeland Security Committee and CIA.
Tim Cook has repeatedly pressed the White House to back the use of strong encryption to protect the privacy of its citizens, stating that we should not be frightened into giving up those rights. It’s a debate which has even seen Presidential candidates asked how they would respond to Apple’s stance.
As The Verge notes, there are competing bills on the way, so this is an issue unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. I made my own position clear in an opinion piece last year, outlining the three reasons I believe Apple is right to stand firm.