The Monitor Daily (U.S.) – California plans to crack down on encrypted phones, adding fuel to an already vividly burning fire. In a post-Snowden era, government attempts to breach consumer privacy and company privacy under exemptive circumstances is regarded with suspicion.
Privacy in the digital era is a buzzing phrase. While California introduced a bill touting the life-saving potential of decrypted smartphones in the fight against human trafficking, world leaders debated Privacy and Secrecy in the Digital Age during the World Economic Forum taking place in Davos.
From one end to the other, governments are juggling two difficult issues. Protecting citizens while respecting consumer privacy is the ideal scenario. Yet, it looks like it’s impossible to achieve. A rapid surge in terrorist attacks in the past year has put consumer privacy and encrypted smartphones under pressure once more. Paris, France and Riverside, California pinpoint the extreme advantage terrorists gain by making use of the same online communication tools we’re all gleefully using.
ISIS uses its household dark web encrypted site for communication and recruiting. Against this background, world governments are facing a conundrum. Cracking down on terrorism networks and other criminal networks is a priority.
However, so is the protection of data of everyone else. When companies are asked to open backdoors to users’ encrypted data and information, it stands to reason that in the majority of cases the answer is negative. Opening access to personal information as well as any forms of communication may well backfire. If governments can access no longer encrypted data, so can other less well-meaning entities.
With the debate firing in Davos, another title took over front pages. California plans to crack down on encrypted phones starting January 1st, 2017. Bill 1681 was introduced by Jim Cooper, California Assembly member. One passage of Bill 1681 reads:
“any smartphone manufactured on or after January 1st, 2017 and sold in California after that date must be capable of being decrypted and unlocked by its manufacturer or its operating system provider”.
Non-compliance with the regulations set forth in Bill 1681 is punishable by a 2,500 dollar-fine applicable to the seller. Provided the bill passes both the Assembly and the State Senate, and Governor Jerry Brown signs it into law, all sellers and thus manufacturers will have to comply.
Apple and Google for instance have made encrypted data a default rule. Neither Android-operated smartphones supporting Android Lollipop, nor iOS smartphones can be cracked by the companies. This is a hurdle that will be difficult to surpass. Jim Cooper argues that encrypted smartphones are the unsurmountable obstacle in fighting human trafficking. Bill 1681 makes reference to the necessity of unencrypted data concerning solely criminal activities tied to human trafficking.
In response to the fact that California plans to crack down on encrypted phones, the American Civil Liberties Union is building a case using the tenth Amendment as its cornerstone. Privacy laws should be enacted to protect users facing the threat of government surveillance.
Photo Credits: jisc.ac.uk