Bill Would Ban State, Local Limits On Smartphone Encryption

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Wednesday introduced legislation that would restrict state or local government efforts to limit electronic data security practices.

Mnet 191059 Encryption

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Wednesday introduced legislation that would restrict state or local government efforts to limit electronic data security practices.

The bill — authored by Reps. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, and Mike Bishop, R-Mich. — would pre-empt proposed bills in California and New York that critics said would effectively ban encryption on smartphones sold in those states.

Law enforcement officials called for limits on increasingly strong encryption capabilities in order to track down electronic communications from criminals or terrorists. FBI Director James Comey said this week that investigators remained unable to access a cellphone owned by a perpetrator of the attacks late last year in Sen Bernardino, California.

Tech companies, however, countered that encryption provides critical protection against hackers in the information economy.

The bill's authors said that they hoped to prevent a patchwork of cyber security laws, which they argued would harm commerce and law enforcement alike.

"National issues require national responses," said Lieu. "The ENCRYPT Act makes sure that this conversation happens in a place that does not disrupt interstate commerce.”

"We need to keep free market and trade between the several states robust, not promote a false sense of security and require things like backdoors and golden keys that can be exploited by hackers," added Farenthold.

The California and New York proposals, which were crafted at the request of local prosecutors, appear to face dim prospects in their respective legislatures.

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