Senate Encryption Bill Introduced | “Effectively Rendering End-to-End Encryption Illegal”

Wednesday April 13th, Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Senate Intelligence Committee member Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) announced a bill which would substantial weaken encryption rights and establish a special congressional commission to address privacy issues. In a personal statement on his web site regarding this legislation entitled “A Sensible Answer To Encryption” Senator Warner says he is proposing “an idea for a lengthy but doable way to satisfy both privacy and security concerns” which would “bridge the gap between government-wary technophiles and security hawks.
The bill has been introduced with bi-partisan support and several front running candidates on both sides of the isle, such as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both support this legislation. ThoughPresident Obama made national headlines last week when he refusing to support legislation which would require tech companies to unlock encryption on demand, the bill is expected by many industry insiders to pass into law.
According the authors, Feinstein & Burr, the one of the purposes of this bill is to “set up a commission made up of members of the tech community, privacy advocates, and the law enforcement and intelligence communities to hash out a solution. That commission would be tasked with review of what law enforcement officials face when they are denied access to encrypted communications, even with a court order.” The Senators explain that their proposal is “appealing to people from both law enforcement and tech.” Pointing out that “When the two previewed their bill last month, they said it’s most important for the two communities that disagree so intensely over encryption to sit down and discuss how to move forward.
A week before the bill was formally introduced its contented were leaked to the media and the language of the document has had tech experts around the world in an uproar ever since. Though the bill calls for a committee to ‘hash out difference of opinions’ about encryption, this means nothing as the meat of the essentially brings an immediate end to encryption rights. Reference the Senators statements above, ‘when the two sides met to review the bill last month they intensely disagreed over encryption rights’. Since then literally nothing has changed, the two sides continue to disagree and all this committee does is provide a closed room for privacy experts to ‘cry foul’ while the government strips away our right to privacy from under our feet.
As Jenna McLaughlin of The Intercept writes “The bill would force technology companies to either decrypt the contents of their customers’ communications for law enforcement, or hack into their own products to do so — effectively rendering illegal the end-to-end encryption currently offered by some of the heaviest hitters in the business, like Apple, Facebook, Google, and now WhatsApp.
In a statement to The Intercept via email Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) says: “This legislation says a company can design what they want their back door to look like, but it would definitely require them to build a back door. For the first time in America, companies who want to provide their customers with stronger security would not have that choice – they would be required to decide how to weaken their products to make you less safe.
Catalin Cimpanu of Softpedia News writes “The bill basically asks companies to use weaker encryption which they could break whenever authorities get a court order and come calling for data.” Going on to add that the legislation requires “companies should provide technical assistance in decrypting data on demand. Practically, the two senators drafted a bill that the FBI and other totalitarian states would have loved. The bill looks something you would have expected China’s leadership to approve.
As Matthew Green of Johns Hopkins University has Tweeted out “It’s not hard to see why the White House declined to endorse Feinstein-Burr. They took a complex issue, arrived at the most naive solution….the bill is pretty much as clueless and unworkable as I expected it would be.
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