U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee leaders are reported to be circulating a draft bill that would give federal courts the authority to force tech companies to comply with government requests for access to encrypted data.
Citing sources familiar with the matter, Reuters reports the proposed legislation from Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Vice Chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is making the rounds, but has a long way to go in a deeply divided Congress.
The current version of the proposal doesn’t stipulate what penalties would be brought against a company, or its executives, that fail to comply with a request for access to encrypted data. The legislation also doesn’t stipulate how the companies should provide access to the data, omitting any mention of much-maligned “backdoors” for use by the government.
The bipartisan bill raises its ugly head during the fervent debate over government access to users’ personal data. Most recently, Apple was ordered to assist the FBI in unlocking an iPhone used by San bernardino shooter Syed Farook. The company has resisted, and a hearing was set for today, but that hearing has been postponed at the request of the Department of Justice, who says there may be a way to unlock the device in question without the aid of Apple.
Apple has argued that government requests to build a “crackable” version of their iOS mobile operating system poses a slippery slope, and puts the personal, encrypted data of millions of iPhone and iPad users in jeopardy, possibly allowing criminals to use the same “backdoor” to steal user information.