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Leaked encryption bill is 'absurd' and technologically ignorant

The controversial encryption bill that would see judges gain the power to force companies to unencrypt data has Silicon Valley outraged
April 9, 2016

That controversial draft legislation backed by two U.S. senators (you know that one I'm talking about) has now hit the Web, and the full scope of the bill's aims is gradually becoming clear. Silicon Valley is going crazy, and is calling for members of the public to rally against the legislation.

Re/code shared the leaked draft bill in a recent article, and offers a good breakdown of exactly what the document entails. In short, it requires companies, including so-called makers of “communications” devices (i.e., Apple), as well as software messaging platforms (like WhatsApp Messenger, another of the government's newfound targets), “to turn over information in response to a judge's order.”

The bill is “mute on technical solutions,” and simply requires companies to hand over the information required. And as Re/code highlights, the bill observes: “no person or entity is above the law.” This, of course, is the kind of statement advocates against Apple made time and time again concerning the company's recent battles with the FBI over the San Bernardino case.

It’s clear the bill authors lack a basic understanding of the technology industry or online commerce. The $8 trillion digital economy depends on secure encryption to function. Back doors create a fatal vulnerability that compromises this protection. The senators might as well take a hatchet to the entire Internet economy.

- Morgan Reed, executive director of ACT

However, it looks like Silicon Valley isn't going to take this bill lying down. Re/code cites comments from a range of different voices, many of which highlight the legislation's technological ignorance of the need for encryption in the digital age. This isn't something we can just get rid of, regardless of what government officials might think or hope for.

The U.S. government is still asking Apple to hack into the iPhones of suspects in a number of cases, but the company is continuing to refuse (a move that's continuing to prompt presidential candidate Donald Trump to encourage a boycott of Apple's products). Cupertino's stand-off against the FBI over the San Bernardino case caught the media spotlight and garnered significant public interest in the issue of mobile security and government intervention. Countless groups stood in solidarity with Apple, both in person at retail stores and online. CEO Tim Cook also took to our TV screens to defend Apple's position against the FBI, highlighting the importance of maintaining consumer rights and warning viewers against the danger of creating an iOS backdoor for the U.S. government to use.

You can check out a copy of the draft legislation yourself by clicking this link. As always, we'll keep you posted with further information as we receive it.