Friday, February 5, 2016

Assemblymember Jim Cooper’s office explains what it wants Apple and Google to do about encryption

California Assemblymember Jim Cooper is the author of a bill, AB 1681, that would prohibit the manufacturing of smartphones capable of letting their users encrypt their “data at rest” beyond the reach of law enforcement, even when the authorities have a proper warrant to see the information.

Skyler Wonnacott, Assemblymember Cooper’s Communications Director, spoke today with Etopia News and had some things to say about the bill.

He accused Apple and Google of “putting profit before people” by offering an operating system (iOS8 and Android 6.0) that puts the last word on encrypted data in the hands of the users and the passcode known only to them, beyond the reach of the operating system’s creators and, hence, beyond the reach of any law enforcement or surveillance agency that seeks access to it by sending the makers of the software the smartphone, specifications of the data to be “pulled” (decrypted), and the legally-valid warrant giving them permission to access that data.

Speaking about the software versions that provide default total-disk encryption, he said that Assemblymember Cooper wants Apple and Google to “roll it back or create a new operating system that would allow them to decrypt the user’s data.”

Wonnacott emphasized that such retrieval of information from a person’s smartphone would only take place “when a search warrant has been issued.”  He said that he was “totally fine with sending them to the manufacturer” to have specified data “pulled” from the device, rather than giving law enforcement itself the ability to read the encrypted data.

Asked about any response to this legislation from Apple or Google, he said that he had so far heard “not a peep out of Apple, not a peep out of Google.”  He added that “they have not reached out to us.  We’re open to talk.”

As for the status of the bill itself, he said that it had not yet been referred to committee. Roy Sianez, Legislative Director for Assemblymember Cooper, said he thought it would probably be assigned to the Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee or perhaps to the Judiciary Committee, or maybe even both.

Wonnacott said he thought the bill would probably get its committee assignment in “mid-March.”

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