Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

White House Reportedly Declines to Support Encryption Legislation

Mark Hosenball and Dustin Volz, Reuters:

The White House is declining to offer public support for draft legislation that would empower judges to require technology companies such as Apple Inc to help law enforcement crack encrypted data, sources familiar with the discussions said.


The draft legislation from Senators Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein, the Republican chair and top Democrat respectively of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is expected to be introduced as soon as this week.

The bill gives federal judges broad authority to order tech companies to help the government but does not spell out what companies might have to do or the circumstances under which they could be ordered to help, according to sources familiar with the text. It also does not create specific penalties for noncompliance.

This isn’t necessarily as positive or welcoming as you might imagine — the White House certainly hasn’t turned around to become pro-privacy and pro-security overnight. This bill will almost certainly not pass, especially so close to an election and with a deadlocked Congress.

What remains constant is that a precedent appears to have been set by a New York magistrate judge: the All Writs Act was ruled to not be capable of obliging a tech company to provide law enforcement access to encrypted data. The other thing that remains constant is that the FBI has become the new Genius Bar for law enforcement. As Apple will likely be hunting for the bug that enables the FBI’s newfound powers and is constantly improving the security of their products, future cases will likely sway the direction in which the law must go. And you know perfectly well which way I hope the winds blow.