Two U.S. senators, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr and Vice Chair Dianne Feinstein, recently issued the draft of a controversial bill that empowers courts to demand tech companies such as Apple to help authorities break into encrypted devices for law enforcement or intelligence purposes.
This proposal comes shortly after an earlier draft leaked online, which was attacked by security researchers and civil liberties advocates on the basis that it would undermine Internet security and expose personal data to hackers.
One of the senators who issued the draft, Richard Burr, said in a statement that he is hopeful that “the draft will start a meaningful and inclusive debate on the role of encryption and its place within the rule of law”. Additionally, the two senators said in a joint statement that “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.”
The bill does not require, according to the news publication The Globe and Mail, manufacturers or communications companies to process, transmit or store data in any particular format. Rather, it compels companies to turn over to the government “data in an intelligible format” even if encryption has made that data inaccessible to anyone other than the owner.
“This flawed bill would leave Americans more vulnerable to stalkers, identity thieves, foreign hackers and criminals,” said Democratic Senator Ron Wyden in a statement.
What’s more, app makers all around the country reacted strongly to the proposal, calling it extremely dangerous. Morgan Reed, executive director of ACT | The App Association said, according to USA Today, that “the bill would force hundreds of thousands of companies to choose between breaking the law and protecting customer data. It would require everyone who writes software to provide the government with a backdoor.”