Bill would override ‘bad’ state-level phone encryption bills

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) are introducing a bill to effectively override “bad” state-level encryption bills, reports The Verge.

The ENCRYPT Act of 2016 would preempt state and local government encryption laws. The two men said today they are "deeply concerned" that varying bills surrounding encryption would endanger the country as well as the competitiveness of American companies. The argument is that it’s not easy or feasible to tailor phone encryption capabilities for specific states, notes The Verge.

The impetus for the new bill is the proposal of state-level bills in California and New York. Those proposals, which consisted of the exact same text, would ban smartphone encryption for phones sold in those states and fine manufacturers for each phone sold with secure disk encryption.

Last month California assembly member Jim Cooper introduced legislation (bill 1681) that  requires any smartphone manufactured "on or after July 1, 2015, and sold in California after that date" to be "capable of being decrypted and unlocked by its manufacturer or its operating system provider.” Any smartphone that couldn't be decrypted on-demand would subject a seller to a $2,500 fine. 

If the bill becomes law, there would be a near-blanket ban on nearly all iPhones and many Android devices across the state, notes ZDNet. The bill must pass the assembly and the state senate, and be signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.

A similar proposed bill is before New York's state assembly and senate. If approved, Apple and Google could face fines of $2,500 per device sold in the state after Jan. 1, 2016, if a retailer knowingly sells a smartphone that can’t be unlocked or decrypted by the device manufacturer or operating-system provider. 

There's no requirement for Apple, Google, or other companies to create a backdoor. However, if any manufacturer wants to sell a smartphone in New York, the device would need to comply with those requirements or else face a civil suit by the attorney general or district attorney.