Federal bill could override state-level encryption bans
Wed 10 Feb 2016
A new bill [PDF] has been proposed in Congress today by Representatives Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.) which looks to put a stop to any pending state-level legislation that could result in misguided encryption measures.
The ENCRYPT bill – Ensuring National Constitutional Rights of Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016 – comes as a response to state-level encryption bills which have already been proposed in New York state and California. These near-identical proposals argued in favour of banning the sale of smartphones sold in the U.S. that feature strong encryption and cannot be accessed by the manufacturer. If these bills are passed, current smartphones, including iPhone and Android models, would need to be significantly redesigned for sale in these two states.
Now Lieu and Farenthold are making moves to prevent the passing of the bills because of their potential impact on trade and the competitiveness of American firms. The two asserted that varying regulation on encryption across different states would impede the selling of certain phones for manufacturers.
To take effect, their federal bill will have to pass through both the House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as be approved by the president. If this approval happens before the state bills are fully enacted, the new bill would block them.
The full ENCRYPT Act reads:
A State or political subdivision of a State may not mandate or request that a manufacturer, developer, seller, or provider of covered products or services – (1) design or alter the security functions in its product or service to allow the surveillance of any user of such product or service, or to allow the physical search of such product, by any agency or instrumentality of a State, a political subdivision of a State, or the United States; or (2) have the ability to decrypt or otherwise render intelligible information that is encrypted or otherwise rendered unintelligible using its product or service.
The Lieu-Farenthold bill has already received backing from top industry groups, including the Internet Technology Industry Council and the Internet Association.