California to backdoor encrypted cellphones

Assembly Member Jim Cooper introduced his bill (Assembly Bill 1681) last week which would make “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.” presumably via a backdoor.

This bill is very similar to the bill (Assembly Bill A8093) Assemblyman Matthew Titone of New York reintroduced which would make “ANY SMARTPHONE THAT IS MANUFACTURED ON OR AFTER JANUARY FIRST, TWO THOUSAND SIXTEEN, AND SOLD OR LEASED IN NEW YORK, SHALL BE CAPABLE OF BEING DECRYPTED AND UNLOCKED BY ITS MANUFACTURER OR ITS OPERATING SYSTEM PROVIDER.” presumably via a backdoor as well. The wording between the two bills is nearly identical.

The California and New York bill would subject the seller or lessor to a civil penalty of $2,500 if they fail to comply to this bill for each smartphone sold or leased.

Under California’s Senate Bill 275, Chapter 275, Section 22761, a smartphone is defined as cellular radio telephone or other mobile voice communications handset device with the following features:

  • Mobile operating system
  • Capability to use mobile software applications
  • Access and browse the internet
  • Send and receive email
  • Utilizes text messaging
  • Utilizes digital voice services
  • Has wireless network connectivity
  • Is capable of operating on a long-term evolution network or successor wireless data network communication standards

With this definition in place, Android and iOS devices will be affected. This means that it would be illegal to sell or lease iPhones and Android devices in California unless Apple and Google put a backdoor in their devices.

Apple has taken a pro-encryption stance before though saying they can’t access customer data, while Google has been able to allow forensic examiners to view the contents of a device, although it no longer works if you are on at least Android 5.0 Lollipop and have encryption enabled.

Cooper’s reasoning for the bill was to fight human trafficking, saying on Instagram: “This morning, I held a press conference to announce the introduction of AB 1681.
It’s time that we put women and children first and combat
AB 1681 would restore a critical investigative tool and help law enforcement apprehend and prosecute suspects that commit crimes against women and children.
Big thanks to
@courageworld @sacramentopolice, California Statewide Law Enforcement Association – CSLEA FOP Lodge 77, Sacramento County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association, Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office, and Marti MacGibbons for participating in today’s press conference.

Titone’s reasoning was to fight terrorism as stated in the memo of Assembly Bill A08093: “Smartphone companies benefit immeasurably from the laws protecting intellectual property, as well as from extensive federal regulation. There is no reason criminals should also benefit, and they will, as people will be defrauded or threatened, and terrorists will use these encrypted devices to plot their next attack over FaceTime. The safety of the citizenry calls for a legislative solution, and a solution is easily at hand.”

Either way, they both intend to trample upon their citizens’ right to privacy under the guise of protecting them.

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