Congressional bill could make it illegal to ban encryption

bill banning states from prohibiting encryption filed tedlieu
Ted Lieu/Twitter
While the national debate on whether encryption is a tool for terrorists or a worthwhile security measure for everyone’s digital data, some state legislators have been looking to weaken it as best they can to bolster law enforcement. That may be harder than they thought however, as a new bill proposed in Congress would block all attempts to legislate back doors into products at the state level.

The bill, introduced by Democratic representative Ted Lieu and Republican representative Blake Farenthold, is called the Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016. While quite a mouthful in name, it’s even stronger in action, as if passed, it would prevent the altering of security functions of products or services to allow surveillance, and would make it illegal for state or political representatives to demand the ability to decrypt communications.

Although such a bill would need to pass through the House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as be given the all clear by the President by being signed into law, the bill has already received a lot of praise from privacy advocates.

Related: We’re not ‘going dark’: Harvard study refutes FBI’s view on encryption

Andrew Crocker, attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said in a chat with Ars that he believes this bill demonstrates that some politicians at least are listening to experts when it comes to encryption and digital security. Unfortunately he said: “We also have lawmakers who are instead proposing vague and/or ineffective ‘solutions’ to that fundamental concern.”

It’s that lack of understanding that is causing so many problems with the debate on encryption/decryption he said.

It’s hoped that this bill will be passed in time to combat the two recently proposed, state-level bills in California and New York, which would effectively ban the sale of devices that allowed end-to-end encryption without the ability of law enforcement to easily crack it open. That would effectively make it illegal to sell iPhones and most Android handsets within those two states unless the relevant manufacturers altered the designs.

Some however believe the bill may not go far enough to block them. It’s been suggested that while this bill might halt the mandated altering of devices, it does nothing to block the sale of hardware capable of strong encryption.

If that is the case though, it may be that Lieu will push for even tighter controls. He’s been a strong champion for encryption since being elected in 2014 and is one of only four members of the House with a degree in computer science — so you know he understands what he’s talking about.


Encryption-busting law passed in Australia may have global privacy implications

Controversial laws have been passed in Australia which oblige tech companies to allow the police to access encrypted messages, undermining the privacy of encryption with potentially global effects.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Twilight Zone’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in December, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to endangered cats

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.

Verizon begins RCS messaging rollout with the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL

What is RCS messaging? It's the successor to today's text messaging. It offers features like real-time audio, read receipts, and encryption, but adoption so far has been slow. Here's everything you need to know.

Is your PC slow? Here's how to restore Windows 10 to factory settings

Computers rarely work as well after they accumulate files and misconfigure settings. Thankfully, with this guide, you'll be able to restore your PC to its original state by learning how to factory reset Windows.

The Titan RTX graphics card is nearly here. Here's what you need to know

The Nvidia Titan RTX is arguably the most powerful consumer graphics card ever made, even if it's not really aimed at consumers. It bridges the 2080 Ti and RTX Quadro cards with boat loads of power.

Leak reveals that Nvidia’s RTX 2060 gaming chipsets will be headed to laptops

The latest leaks of Nvidia's upcoming RTX 2060 have given performance benchmarks and further detail about the future chipset and its capabilities, while a RTX 2060 Max-Q variant has also been discovered for thin and light gaming machines.

Looking for an Apple MacBook below $900? Woot has you covered

If you're looking for a great deal on an Apple MacBook, then Amazon's Woot may just have what you have been seeking. It has Macbooks available for only $810 with Intel M3 CPUs, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB SSDs.

Want to save a webpage as a PDF? Just follow these steps

Need to quickly save and share a webpage? The best way is to learn how to save a webpage as a PDF file, as they're fully featured and can handle images and text with ease. Here's how.

New rumors say the Pixelbook 2 could show up at CES 2019

What will the Pixelbook 2 be like? Google hasn't announced it, but thanks to rumors and leaks, we think we have a pretty good idea of what the potential new flagship Chromebook will be like.

A dead pixel doesn't mean a dead display. Here's how to repair it

Dead pixel got you down? We don't blame you. Check out our guide on how to fix a dead pixel and save yourself that costly screen replacement or an unwanted trip to your local repair shop.

You could spend $1,000 on an iPhone, or buy one of these awesome laptops instead

Finding a decent laptop is easy, but finding one under $1,000 is a bit tricky. Luckily, we've taken some of the guesswork out of picking out a budget laptop. Here are some of our favorites, the best laptops under $1,000.

Don't know what to do with all your old DVDs? Here's how to convert them to MP4

Given today's rapid technological advancements, physical discs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Check out our guide on how to convert a DVD to MP4, so you can ditch discs for digital files.

Here’s how to install Windows on a Chromebook

If you want to push the functionality of your new Chromebook to another level, and Linux isn't really your deal, you can try installing Windows on a Chromebook. Here's how to do so, just in case you're looking to nab some Windows-only…