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
84 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
84 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
84 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
84 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
84 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
84 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)

Popular Stories

iphone 14 pro max vs 13 max 2

Camera Comparison: iPhone 14 Pro Max vs. iPhone 13 Pro Max

Thursday September 29, 2022 7:44 am PDT by
The iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max introduce some major improvements in camera technology, adding a 48-megapixel lens and low-light improvements across all lenses with the new Photonic Engine. We've spent the last week working on an in-depth comparison that pits the new iPhone 14 Pro Max against the prior-generation iPhone 13 Pro Max to see just how much better the iPhone 14 Pro Max can be. Subscrib ...
maxresdefault

Apple Responds to Video Testing Crash Detection Feature With Junkyard Vehicles

Friday September 30, 2022 9:11 am PDT by
The Wall Street Journal's Joanna Stern recently traveled to Michigan to test Apple's new crash detection feature on the iPhone 14 and Apple Watch Ultra. In response, Apple provided some additional information about how the feature works. Stern recruited Michael Barabe to crash his demolition derby car with a heavy-duty steel frame into two unoccupied vehicles parked in a junkyard — a 2003...
iphone 14 iphone 14 plus in hand feature

iPhone 14 Is Secretly Hiding a Beloved Mac Feature

Friday September 30, 2022 3:24 am PDT by
The iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro models bring over a longstanding Mac feature, but the setting to enable it is off by default. The feature, which is actually a new accessibility option, allows the iPhone to play a startup chime like the Mac. When enabled, the sound comes alongside a new shutdown chime. The Mac has featured a startup chime since 1987's Macintosh II, and the iconic "bong"...
adaptive transparency airpods pro

iOS 16.1 Beta Brings Adaptive Transparency to Original AirPods Pro

Thursday September 29, 2022 1:08 pm PDT by
The third beta of iOS 16.1 that was released earlier this week expands the Adaptive Transparency feature introduced with the second-generation AirPods Pro to the original AirPods Pro. As noted on Reddit, first-generation AirPods Pro owners who also have the AirPods beta software will now see an "Adaptive Transparency" toggle in the AirPods section of the Settings app. The 5A304A beta...
iOS 16 Wallpaper Spectrum Feature

Five Wallpaper Apps to Check Out for iOS 16's New Lock Screen Depth Effect

Thursday September 29, 2022 9:08 am PDT by
One of the biggest new features in iOS 16 is a completely redesigned iPhone Lock Screen. The new Lock Screen is entirely customizable, letting you change the colors and fonts, add widgets and new wallpapers, and more to make your iPhone uniquely yours. Of course, even before iOS 16, you could customize your Lock Screen with a wallpaper of your choice. iOS 16 takes the Lock Screen wallpaper...
tony blevins car

Apple Procurement VP Departs Company After Vulgar TikTok Comment

Thursday September 29, 2022 12:38 pm PDT by
Tony Blevins, Apple's vice president of procurement, is set to depart the company after he made a crude comment about his profession in a recent TikTok video, reports Bloomberg. Blevins was in a video by TikTok creator Daniel Mac, who was doing a series on the jobs of people he spotted with expensive cars. After seeing Blevins in an expensive Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, Mac asked Blevins what ...
tim cook malala

Tim Cook: Not Too Long From Now, You'll Wonder How You Led Your Life Without AR

Thursday September 29, 2022 7:26 am PDT by
Speaking at Università Degli Studi di Napoli Federico II in Naples, Italy, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that not too long from today, people will wonder how they led a life without augmented reality, stressing the "profound" impact it will have on the not so distant future. At the university, Cook was awarded an Honorary Degree in Innovation and International Management and also sat down for a...
Hero0005

Best Apple Deals of the Week: M2 MacBook Air Hits New All-Time Low Price at $1,049, Plus Sales on AirPods Pro and More

Friday September 30, 2022 9:05 am PDT by
This week's best Apple deals focus on the AirPods Pro, AirPods Pro 2, and M2 MacBook Air, including numerous all-time low prices on these devices. You'll also find up to 50 percent off discounts on Anker and Eufy accessories on Amazon. 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...
zuckerberg metaverse

Apple CEO Tim Cook: 'I'm Not Really Sure the Average Person Can Tell You What the Metaverse Is'

Friday September 30, 2022 12:51 pm PDT by
Apple CEO Tim Cook has been touring Europe this week, sitting down for interviews with various media publications. Augmented reality has been a running theme in Cook's discussions, and it is a topic he brought up again in an interview with Dutch publication Bright, which is part of RTL News. "I think AR is a profound technology that will affect everything," Cook said, echoing comments from...
ipad pro m1 feature

Gurman: Apple Event This October Remains Unlikely, No Touch ID for iPhone 15

Sunday October 2, 2022 6:41 am PDT by
Apple is developing new iPad Pro, Mac, and Apple TV models, and at least some of these products will be released in October, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. However, Gurman continues to believe that Apple is unlikely to hold an event this month. In the latest edition of his Power On newsletter, Gurman said "the big iPhone 14 unveiling last month was probably it for Apple in 2022 in...