Encryption of mobile devices has been a hot-button issue for privacy advocates and for those who feel that certain situations call for backdoor access. In fact, there are two state bills right now in New York state and California that wants to ban smartphones with strong encryption. But now, there is a house bill that will try to stop the state bills from being enacted by pre-empting them. It’s a longer road for said house bill, but the Congressmen who introduced it are willing to go all the way.
Representatives Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.) filed the “Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016” or the ENCRYPT Act to make sure that the state cannot force a manufacturer, developer, seller, or provider of covered products to design or alter the security functions or have the ability to decrypt a product or service. Privacy advocates have of course lauded the bill as they have long been fighting for this. They believe that “it’s not possible to force providers and manufacturers to provide access to encrypted data without simultaneously undermining encryption.”
The almost identical state bills in New York state and California are the opposite of the one sitting in Congress. They are proposing that their respective states do not allow the sale of smartphones that have strong crypto which will not allow manufacturers to unlock them. If this is based into law, then Android devices would have to be redesigned, at least in those two states only.
The federal bill however would need to pass the House of Representatives and the Senate and then signed by the President. Only then would it be able to stop the two state bills from being enacted. Let’s see who gets to the finish line first.