Security & Fraud

White House Won’t Support Encryption Bill

The Apple-FBI encryption saga appears to be tempered — for now — but the debate about what role the federal government has on the subject is just getting started.

Now, the White House has gotten involved to say that it will not offer support for the legislation proposal that would give judges authority to tell tech companies they need to help law enforcement officials with their requests to crack the codes to break into cellphone data, Reuters reported, citing sources said to be close to the matter.

What this means is that those battles between the DOJ, other law enforcement officials and the tech companies like Apple will likely continue. And while there’s been a lot of chatter on this matter from the White House (including President Barack Obama himself), it hasn’t gone anywhere as the administration appears to be split on the issue, the unnamed sources indicated.

The draft legislation that is being proposed comes from Sen. Richard Burr, a republican, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a democrat, and is slated to be introduced soon. What the bill calls for is to allow federal judges to have the right to tell tech companies they need to comply to government requests. What’s not clear, however, is how far-reaching that bill may be or what cases judges would have the authority to apply this to.

Sources said there isn’t a clear indicator of what the bill would outline as to a penalty associated with not complying to a federal government request as a result of this legislation if it were to pass.

As for what the White House has specifically reviewed over this? That’s also not known, but sources said that the White House has reviewed the text and gave input, which it would not publicly comment on. This may be a result of the current political climate and the impending 2016 Presidential Election.

The only response a White House spokesman offered was a reference to White House Press Secretary’s Josh Earnest’s statement on the issue, which said the Obama administration was “skeptical” about making laws that would solve the encryption debate due to the complex nature of the matter.

And then, of course, there’s the debate going on over privacy and civil liberties. The debate includes the major tech company CEOs, along with many politicians, most of whom are democrats, such as Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon democrat, who said he will oppose any legislation that takes away from encryption protection of consumer tech products.

And on the intelligence side, there are fears that if back doors are created for law enforcement officials, then hackers could also find their way into those gaps. There’s also been the argument that the government has the tools to do what they need without the tech company’s help — which was demonstrated recently after the FBI was able to hack into the iPhone in the San Bernardino case without Apple’s help.

But for now, the debate continues.

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