Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Statement on Assemblymember Cooper’s AB 1681 from EFF Staff Attorney Andrew Crocker in which he calls it a “terrible policy”

California Assemblymember Jim Cooper has introduced a bill, AB 1681, which says:  “A smartphone that is manufactured on or after January 1, 2017, and sold or leased in California, shall be capable of being decrypted and unlocked by its manufacturer or its operating system provider.”

Electronic Frontier Foundation Staff Attorney Andrew Crocker this afternoon provided the following statement about AB 1681 to Etopia News:

 “Under the Constitution, I don't think it's within the state's power to legislate this. Regardless, it would be entirely ineffective since the rule wouldn't reach phones sold just across the border. Clearly California hopes to change national policy by forcing Apple et al to comply, but that's why the states are limited in their power to burden interstate commerce in this way.

“This is terrible policy that is entirely infeasible from a technical perspective. There is no way to ensure that phones can be decrypted by the police and not the ‘bad guys.’ It's not about privacy but security--the security of innocent people's devices against hackers, thieves and others. It could well be unconstitutional under the First Amendment as well.

“No matter how terrible the crime, we don't allow the police to disregard other important values like privacy and security, and this is a law that would make us all less secure. Meanwhile the police have access to lots of other tools to get at this evidence, from hacking or brute forcing the device to getting cloud backups to forcing the owner to unlock the phone. Moreover the sophisticated bad guys will resort to third party tools to cover their tracks.”

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