French lawmakers yesterday backed a plan to impose penalties on companies like Apple that deny access to encrypted data during a terrorist investigation.
Under the proposals, a technology company with operations in France would be hit with a €350,000 ($386,000) fine and its executives could be jailed up to five years if it refused to comply with a request to aid investigators in accessing encrypted data. Additionally, every person who refuses to share information relating to an investigation could be sentenced to two years in jail and fined €15,000.
According to Bloomberg Business, the bill amendment that would give legal weight to the power was submitted by opposition party The Republicans, as part of an overhaul of legal procedures in the wake of last year's terrorist attacks that killed 130 people in Paris.
France's lower chamber of parliament cleared the bill on first reading by 474 votes to 32. It will be subsequently reviewed by the Senate once it clears the lower house in the coming months.
"The rule aims to force phone makers to give investigators data and it will be up to the manufacturer to use whatever technique is necessary," Republican lawmaker Philippe Goujon, who proposed the amendment, told Bloomberg. "The target is to have them cooperate. The aim is not to break the encryption – the principle is that manufacturers should cooperate."
Apple is currently fighting a U.S. court order compelling the company to help the FBI unlock the iPhone owned by deceased terror suspect Syed Farook, one of the shooters in the December 2015 attacks in San Bernardino, California. The FBI asked Apple to create a version of iOS that would both disable passcode security features and allow passcodes to be entered electronically, allowing it to then brute force the passcode on the device.
Apple has officially opposed the order, arguing that the FBI is seeking a "dangerous power" that would undermine the security and privacy interests of hundreds of millions of people. In addition, the company argues that the All Writs Act, which the FBI is using in the case, does not give the government a pass to "conscript and commandeer" the company and sets a precedent that could lead to more insidious demands in the future.
Apple's opposition to the order will face off against the government in court on March 22.
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