The White House is not expected to support an upcoming encryption law. After recent FBI and Apple conflict over unlocking the iPhone used by a terrorist, the pressure is on to find a legal remedy for secured information controlled by criminals and terrorists. Leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee from both political parties are drafting legislation that would require tech companies to help law enforcement organizations break encryption on suspect’s devices. Any law drafted by the committee is unlikely to receive support from the Obama Administration at this time, according to Reuters.
President Obama has suggested support in concept for law enforcement ability to access information on phones during investigations, but The White House still has mixed opinions, Reuters reported, citing unidentified sources. With disagreement among government and law enforcement groups and in the light of public concern and tech company pushback, as well as a contentious congress, no support or comment on encryption legislation is likely to come from the White House.
Committee Chair Republican Senator Richard Burr and Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein are expected to introduce a bill soon giving federal courts the authority to require that tech companies cooperate in breaking encrypted data in criminal investigations. The tech companies have fought back as have civil liberties groups, concerned that making it easier to bypass or breakthrough device security will widen already prevalent threats to personal privacy.
One of the chief concerns about the current bill is vagueness. It contains no specific instructions, methods, or limits on how companies would have to comply with court orders, nor any specific penalties for noncompliance. The chances for abuse or leakage without tight controls would be high. The threats to personal privacy and to secret and proprietary company data are immense without strict, specific security conditions, so the specter of unregulated, loose decryption legislation has many deeply concerned.
The conflict between personal privacy and public safety is the bottom line issue in the current focus on unlocking information on phones. Lack of support for one bill doesn’t mean the efforts of those seeking tools to help solve crimes and thwart terrorists will end. For now, it doesn’t appear that the White House will support or even comment on the expected bill.