A bill is being introduced this week that would not allow any state in America to ban the sale of mobile devices that are encrypted, or to mandate that phone makers put a built in feature in their handsets that would provide back door access to the user’s private data. This bill is called the ENCRYPT (Ensuring National Constitutional Rights of Your Private Telecommunications) Act of 2016, and is being championed by a couple of members of the US Congress, namely Rep. Ted Lieu, a Democrat from California, and Rep. Blake Farenthold, a Republican from Texas.
Most smartphone devices today come with some form of encryption. This is by design so that user’s mobile device will be protected from unauthorized access, especially from those with malicious intent. In order to decrypt the information saved on a handset, an encryption key is required, which the phone makers themselves do not have in their possession.
There has been some debate regarding mobile encryption particularly in smartphones. Those working in law enforcement are likely to go for less encryption. They argue that the information saved on mobile devices can be used to thwart criminals or even certain individuals that could be hatching some terrorist plans. As for the average user, he has every right to protect his privacy, and encryption helps ensure that he is protected against identity theft and unauthorized access.
In January early this year, it was reported that the state of California was seriously considering the ban of encrypted smartphone devices. As a matter of fact, Jim Cooper, a member of the California State assembly has introduced Bill 1681, which would have every smartphone manufactured on or after January 1st of this year and sold in California to be capable of being decrypted and unlocked by its maker or the provider of its mobile operating system. On the east coast, the state of New York has also introduced a similar bill.
The rationale behind the introduction of the California and New York bills is pretty understandable. But as explained by Lieu, having 50 different states in America following different decrypting standards would wreak havoc not only on the privacy of consumers, but also on the competitiveness in the smartphone industry (phone makers who do not put back door access features on their smartphone products would have no hope in selling their devices in states that support the ban of encrypted handsets). Introducing the ENCRYPT Act is a way to put a stop to that, or at least, provide a venue for discussion on a national level so that everyone involved will get to throw their arguments fairly.
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