The ENCRYPT Act comes after New York and California moved to weaken smartphone encryption.
Two members of Congress are trying to stop states from weakening encryption.
Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.) introduced a bill on Wednesday that would stop states from mandating that a company intentionally weaken its smartphone encryption to facilitate law enforcement action.
The bill, known as the ENCRYPT Act, is surprisingly short, saying simply that no state or local muncipality can place restrictions or rules upon device manufacturers, app developers, or product sellers. More specifically, it targets the idea of forcing companies to more easily allow those local governments to “have the ability to decrypt or otherwise render intelligible information that is encrypted or otherwise rendered unintelligible using its product or service.”
The bill was presented to Congress just weeks after New York and California lawmakers introduced their own bills that would ban the sale of encrypted smartphones. Since Apple and Google encrypt their most recent operating systems by default, though, that would make it difficult to sell iPhones or Android-based devices in those two states. Neither bill has seen activity since being introduced, however.
“Different rules in different states create a myriad of issues and will actually make it more difficult for law enforcement officials. We need a unified approach to this issue that both protects security and privacy while enabling law enforcement to keep us safe,” Rep. Farenthold said in a statement. “The California and New York proposals do not solve the problem. 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.”
“The ENCRYPT Act makes sure that this conversation happens in a place that does not disrupt interstate commerce,” Rep. Lieu said.
Regardless of what happens on Capitol Hill, all these bills again bring up the issue of encryption. Law enforcement officials have criticized Apple and Google for hardening their communication platforms. Indeed, if an iMessage user were to communicate with another, it would be impossible for Apple, as well as law enforcement, to intercept that communication. Law enforcement agencies say such features put the public at risk. Apple and Google, among others, say they’re protecting individual rights to privacy and security, and have no plans to alter their OSes.