Apple Backs Open Letter to Senators Criticizing Draft Encryption Bill

by

An open letter expressing "deep concerns" about a U.S. draft encryption bill that would force smartphone makers to decrypt data at the behest of the government was published yesterday, signed by four coalitions representing Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and other major tech companies.

The letter is addressed to the bill's sponsors, Senators Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein, and warns of the legislation's "unintended consequences", calling its requirements of technology companies "well-intentioned but ultimately unworkable" (via The Verge).

feinsteinburr

Any mandatory decryption requirement, such as that included in the discussion draft of the bill that you authored, will to lead to unintended consequences. The effect of such a requirement will force companies to prioritize government access over other considerations, including digital security. As a result, when designing products or services, technology companies could be forced to make decisions that would create opportunities for exploitation by bad actors seeking to harm our customers and whom we all want to stop. The bill would force those providing digital communication and storage to ensure that digital data can be obtained in "intelligible" form by the government, pursuant to a court order. This mandate would mean that when a company or user has decided to use some encryption technologies, those technologies will have to be built to allow some third party to potentially have access. This access could, in turn, be exploited by bad actors.

It is also important to remember that such a technological mandate fails to account for the global nature of today’s technology. For example, no accessibility requirement can be limited to U.S. law enforcement; once it is required by the U.S., other governments will surely follow. In addition, the U.S. has no monopoly on these security measures. A law passed by Congress trying to restrict the use of data security measures will not prevent their use. It will only serve to push users to non-U.S. companies, in turn undermining the global competitiveness of the technology industry in the U.S. and resulting in more and more data being stored in other countries.

We support making sure that law enforcement has the legal authorities, resources, and training it needs to solve crime, prevent terrorism, and protect the public. However, those things must be carefully balanced to preserve our customers’ security and digital information. We are ready and willing to engage in dialogue about how to strike that balance, but remain concerned about efforts to prioritize one type of security over all others in a way that leads to unintended, negative consequences for the safety of our networks and our customers.

The letter is signed by Reform Government Surveillance, the Computer and Communications Industry Association, the Entertainment Software Association, and the Internet Infrastructure Coalition. Facebook, Netflix, eBay, and Dropbox are among other companies represented by the groups.

The news follows heavy criticism of the bill from security experts after a draft titled "The Compliance with Court Orders Act 2016" was circulated earlier this month following Apple's standoff with the FBI over access to an iPhone used by one of the shooters in the San Bernardino terrorist attack. The draft states that all providers of communication services and products must respect the "rule of law" and comply with legal requirements and court orders to provide information stored either on devices or remotely.

Without detailing specific technical demands, the wording of the act itself makes end-to-end encryption impossible. Experts said it was "absurd", "dangerous", and "bad legislation in every way", amounting to a government-mandated back door.

The White House remains deeply divided on the issue and has so far decided not to offer public support for the legislation. Language in the draft bill is subject to changes based on input from stakeholders, although an official draft was released one week ago with few changes from the earlier version. Senators Burr and Feinstein have yet to respond to the letter.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Top Rated Comments

ForkHandles Avatar
60 months ago
I agree with the letter. All government policies deal in generalities with attempts at safeguarding built in. Invariably those safeguards fail and are exploited by 'bad actors'

A hot topic in Europe is tax law, we have been collecting taxes here in the uk for around 1000 years and still legislation allows for dodgy dealings to take place left, right and centre. If we can't get tax law correct after a millennium what chance does the US have of getting encryption law correct.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
nt5672 Avatar
60 months ago
Its going to take more than a letter to fix these smart power hungry political elites. Make no mistake about this, they are not idiots or dumb, or have a failure to read and understand. They are simply power hungry. Yes thats right, in spite of the political rhetoric that spills out of their lair they are not working in anyones best interest except their own.

Once you understand that they are bent on power and domination and not this "we need to protect the children and the weak", then you will understand exactly how smart they are.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mr Fusion Avatar
60 months ago
The fact this has to be explained to these idiots like they're six years old tells me everything I need to know about how dysfunctional my government is.

The system's broken beyond repair. REVOLUTION!!!
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mr Fusion Avatar
60 months ago

They can't be experts in everything to be fair.

This is what happens when the legislature is comprised mostly of lawyers.

The only part lawyers should play in drafting legislation is making sure the law will have the intended effect in the legal system. The people who should be in charge of the ideas and concepts that comprise the law should be experts in their field and should come from all walks of life.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
redscull Avatar
60 months ago

So what is your solution? Lock everything down tight for everyone, including the rapists, pedophiles, nuclear arms dealers, kidnappers, money launderers, Mafiosi, and serial murderers, and just accept whatever societal mayhem they cause as a cost of the security for your cat videos? Sorry, but that's not acceptable. I think you need to take off your tin foil hat and start looking at the bigger picture as an adult.

Absolutely yes. Lock it down for everyone. I don't want all those bad entities you named having easy access to my data.

Also, you realize there are other countries on this planet right? It's mostly just plain US citizens that are subject to US laws. So removing decryption on phones made by a US company really only make the phones of plain US citizens insecure. Globally operating bad guys will be entirely unimpacted because they'll just use devices made elsewhere.

Ben Franklin was an adult, and I'm pretty sure there was no tin foil hat for him to wear, when he said "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." It's solid advice. It's a shame you fail to grasp the concept of what freedom actually is, or worse, you're truly against it. Seriously, the only intelligent, logical adults supporting insecure encryption are bad entities. What's your agenda?
[doublepost=1461338730][/doublepost]


I hate to live in a world we're the government is power-less to do anything. Why should encryption be above the law ?

I'd hate to live in a world where the government has complete power over me. Private information should always be above the law. When I'm not free to THINK what I want, including writing those thoughts down because I wasn't gifted a perfect memory, then I'm not free whatsoever. Privacy is the very last bit of freedom you can have. Once it's gone, you have literally nothing left.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Vanilla35 Avatar
60 months ago
I think the cyber world is different than governments anticipate. There are still power plays to be made, but it's not with the same kind of authority as you would expect. The government doesn't necessarily hold the foundation for this one. Once a back door has been exploited you can't just close the borders, or print more money, or even pass a law. If weak encryption leads to advantageous opportunities by countries like North Korea, everyone loses.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

0 Deals Hero

Black Friday 2020: Best Apple Deals to Plan For

Saturday November 21, 2020 10:00 am PST by
In the lead-up to Black Friday next week, we've been putting a spotlight on the best deals coming from various retailers like Best Buy and Walmart. In an effort to further prepare our readers for the best Black Friday deals, we're breaking down what we think should be on your radar for Black Friday in 2020. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a...
2020 apple shopping event

Apple Offering Up to $150 Gift Card With Select Products on Black Friday Through Cyber Monday

Monday November 23, 2020 2:53 am PST by
Apple has announced its annual four-day shopping event, offering customers up to a $150 Apple Store gift card with the purchase of select products between Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the United States. The gift card values in the United States are as follows: $150 for 16-inch MacBook Pro $150 for 21.5-inch iMac $50 for 13-inch MacBook Pro $50 for MacBook Air $50 for iPhone SE,...
m1 mac mini vignette

Apple Lists M1-Based Mac Mini Logic Boards With 10 Gigabit Ethernet in Internal Parts Ordering System

Friday November 20, 2020 9:32 am PST by
While the new Mac mini with the M1 chip is only available with Gigabit Ethernet, Apple has listed multiple M1-based Mac mini logic boards with 10 Gigabit Ethernet in an internal parts list for Apple Authorized Service Providers. For every Mac mini logic board with Gigabit Ethernet in the parts list, obtained by MacRumors, there is a corresponding logic board with 10 Gigabit Ethernet:...
ipad pro 2020 display

Black Friday Week Kicks Off With Up to $150 Savings on 2020 iPad Pro

Sunday November 22, 2020 2:37 pm PST by
As we head into Black Friday week, we're seeing some of the best deals of the season so far, with Amazon and Best Buy today discounting the latest iPad Pro models by up to $150 at the lowest prices we've ever tracked on these models. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep ...
macos big sur m1 macs restore issue

Apple Provides Instructions to Fix macOS Reinstallation Errors on M1 Macs

Sunday November 22, 2020 3:30 pm PST by
Shortly after the launch of Apple's new M1 Macs, we saw reports that attempts to restore and reinstall macOS on those machines right away could result in an installation error that would leave your Mac non-functional. Specifically, the error message would read: "An error occurred preparing the update. Failed to personalize the software update. Please try again." Over the weekend, Apple p...
iPhone 6s main

Rumor Claims iOS 15 to Drop Support for iPhone 6s and Original iPhone SE

Sunday November 22, 2020 9:25 am PST by
Apple will drop support for the iPhone SE, iPhone 6s, and iPhone 6s Plus in next year's release of iOS 15, according to a rumor shared today by Israeli site The Verifier. If the rumor is accurate, that would mean iOS 15 will be compatible with the following Apple devices: 2021 iPhone series iPhone 12 Pro Max iPhone 12 Pro iPhone 12 mini iPhone 12 iPhone 11 iPhone 11 Pro iPhone 11 Pro ...
new m1 chip

Craig Federighi: Native Windows on M1 Macs is 'Really up to Microsoft'

Friday November 20, 2020 11:57 am PST by
Following the release of the M1 Macs Apple executives have been doing interviews with a range of publications, and today, Ars Technica published another interview with software engineering chief Craig Federighi, hardware technologies lead Johny Srouji, and marketing VP Greg Joswiak. Much of the interview focuses on topics that the three have already covered in prior discussions, but there is ...
Walmart November Deals Hero

Black Friday Spotlight: Walmart Will Have AirPods Pro Down to Lowest Price of $169, and More Apple Deals

Thursday November 19, 2020 8:05 am PST by
We've been tracking early Black Friday deals in our dedicated Black Friday Roundup, and in an effort to prepare our readers for the big shopping event we're highlighting sales store-by-store in the lead-up to November 27. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Walmart. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running. Next ...
xlK6MS4MLqVFaskl

iFixit Shares iPhone 12 Pro Max Teardown Revealing L-Shaped Battery and Bigger Camera Module

Sunday November 22, 2020 2:53 am PST by
In the last of its iPhone 12 series teardowns, iFixit has published its iPhone 12 Pro Max disassembly, which reveals some unique differences in the design of the internals, including the full extent of the larger camera system responsible for the improved low-light performance on Apple's largest iPhone to date. On opening the iPhone 12 Pro Max, the first obvious difference compared to the...
apple leather sleeve

Leather Sleeve for iPhone 12 Models Now Available From Apple

Friday November 20, 2020 12:16 pm PST by
Apple today began selling the Leather Sleeve for the new iPhone 12 models, with the accessory having first been announced alongside the updated iPhones in October. Priced at $129, the Leather Sleeve is not a case and is designed to be removed when the iPhone is in use. It features a cutout at the front that displays the time, and it comes with a matching leather strap. According to Apple, it ...