French lawmakers have cleared a plan that would give the French government the power to impose large fines on companies, such as Apple, that would deny law enforcement access to encrypted data during a terrorist investigation. The amendment, proposed by Republican lawmaker Philippe Goujon, would also jail company executives.
Under Goujon’s proposals, a company operating in France would face a 350,000-euro ($386,000) fine and its executives could be jailed for up to five years if it denied investigators access to data. In addition, every person who refuses to share information relating to an investigation could be sentenced to two years in jail and fined 15,000 euros.
The bill amendment was submitted by the Republican opposition party as one piece of Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas’s bill intended to overhaul legal procedures in the wake of the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks that killed 130 people in Paris. Phones with encrypted data are reportedly holding up investigators working in several terrorism cases, including the Nov. 13 attacks
The bill was cleared by France’s lower chamber of parliament on the first reading by a vote of 474 to 32. The bill will got to the Senate for review, once it is clears the lower house.
“The rule aims to force phone makers to give investigators data and it will be up to the manufacturer to use whatever technique is necessary,” Republican lawmaker Philippe Goujon, who proposed the amendment, said in an interview. “The target is to have them cooperate. The aim is not to break the encryption — the principle is that manufacturers should cooperate.”
Apple is currently fighting an order by a California judge that compels it to help unlock the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook. The FBI has asked Apple to create a special version of iOS that would disable the passcode security features on the device, and also allow passcodes to be entered electronically, allowing a brute force method of unlocking the device.