A bill is currently working its way through the New York State assembly that could cause a number of legal headaches for smartphone makers and mobile operating system providers, as it would require them to decrypt and unlock devices if request to do so by law enforcement officials.
Introduced by Assemblyman Matthew Titone last summer and referred to committee on Jan. 6, the bill would introduce a penalty of $2,500 to the vendor for every device that doesn’t comply with the requirement. The justification for the decryption requirement in the bill, as has become the norm, is the threat of criminals or terrorists using encrypted devices for nefarious deeds.
Smartphone manufacturers and operating system providers will be required to have the capability to unlock or decrypt any smartphone sold or leased in New York after January 2016. If they don’t comply, they would be subject to the fine.
While the bill was introduced last summer by Assemblyman Matthew Titone, it has only now been referred to committee. Titone, of course, plays the “safety of the citizens,” card.
“The safety of the citizenry calls for a legislative solution, and a solution is easily at hand. Enacting this bill would penalize those who would sell smart- phones that are beyond the reach of law enforcement,” the notes on the bill say.
“The fact is that, although the new software may enhance privacy for some users, it severely hampers law enforcement’s ability to aid victims. All of the evidence contained in smartphones and similar devices will be lost to law enforcement, so long as the criminals take the precaution of protecting their devices with passcodes. Of course they will do so. Simply stated, passcode-protected devices render lawful court orders meaningless and encourage criminals to act with impunity.”
To become law, the bill will need to move to the floor and then be voted on by both the state assembly and the senate.
While both state and local government officials have called for relaxed encryption methods, saying the strong encryption methods used by Apple, Google, and other technology firms allow criminals and terrorists to communicate without the fear of their messages being decrypted, the companies have maintained such access would lead to misuse by those very same “bad guys.”
Apple CEO Tim Cook has maintained that any backdoor provided to law enforcement could also be used by the bad guys to access a customer’s data. Apple’s iOS 8 operating system for mobile devices introduced a data encryption package that the company itself cannot crack, even if presented with warrants ordering them to do so.