The state of California has quite a track record of hosting some of the biggest tech companies in recent history. But in spite of that fact, its legislature is actually considering imposing a ban on smartphone devices that come with complex protective encryption capabilities. Jim Cooper, a member of the California State assembly has introduced Bill 1681, which would require smartphones produced on or after January 1st of next year and sold in the Golden State to be capable of being decrypted and unlocked by its manufacturer or its operating system provider. Those devices that will be found to be undecryptable upon demand shall be subjected to a fine in the amount of $2,500 issued to the smartphone’s seller.
To be clear about the implications of this bill, if ever it becomes law, it would mean a ban on almost all iPhone devices sold in California, not to mention quite a lot of smartphones that run on Google’s Android mobile operating system sold in the state. This could be a major blow to Apple, who intriguingly is based in Cupertino, a city right in California. The company could soon be banned from selling its best selling product in its own home state.
In September of last year, Apple had stated that it can not reasonably bypass the passcode of a mobile user’s iPhone or iPad device, which means that it can not comply with warrants issued in order to access data saved in these types of gadgets. As for Google, it has said last year that it has included similar encryption protocols in its Android OS, but can be forced to bypass those protocols in extreme cases even if it prefers not to.
Of course, Bill 1681 still has to go through the usual process before becoming law -- passing the assembly as well as the California senate, before being signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. But others may doubt be wondering if it is an inevitable thing.
Interestingly, the state of New York has also introduced a remarkably similar bill. But in New York’s bill, the state senate has provided a section in its new website that allows residents of NY to make their views known regarding the bill being introduced. With the use of simple aye or nay buttons, New Yorkers get to have a say in the proceedings.
Californians do not have that luxury. For phone makers planning to sell smartphones in the state, they may only have less than twelve months before they can say their devices are untouchable.
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