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Silicon Valley’s fight for encryption goes global as France considers legislation

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In the wake of last week’s terror attacks in Brussels, there is a renewed focus on encryption in Europe that could have a huge effect on US tech giants like Apple and Facebook.

According a report from the New York Times, Silicon Valley is bracing itself for further debates in Europe with governments over encryption and law enforcement’s access to user data.

Lawmakers in France are debating new legislation that could fine smartphone makers like Apple for refusing to cooperate with terrorism investigations. The new proposals emerged a few weeks after Apple declined to assist the F.B.I. with unlocking the iPhone at the center of the San Bernardino shooting. This, week the French government will debate these new proposed changes to anti-terrorism laws, which could also see tech executives imprisoned for declining access to communications or data.

Meanwhile, in the U.K., the controversial Investigatory Powers bill is being debated fiercely with concerns over mass surveillance and weakening encryption.

The discussion around encryption in Europe could create more problems for Apple and other U.S. companies. Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and several others have all officially stood against the proposed U.K. law, stating that it would have global implications beyond affecting British customers.

“Decisions made today about UK legislation will set precedents which may be copied elsewhere and have wider ramifications for all parties, both in the UK and overseas,” the group of companies wrote in their brief.

Technology like encryption “obviously cripples the work of our surveillance agencies,” and phone manufacturers need to cooperate more with investigators, said Philippe Goujon, a member of France’s national assembly and one of the proponents of the new measures in France. “Sure, this could have repercussions internationally,” he told the Times. “But there are other countries in the world that have similar legislation.”

Facebook recently felt the ire of a government demanding access to encrypted data recently when authorities in Brazil arrested one of its executives for declining to hand over data that was requested via a court order.

The encryption debate is increasingly growing worldwide as more governments and law enforcement agencies contend with the technology.

Apple, Facebook and the rest may have some allies in Europe though with Germany imposing strong privacy laws, and in January the Netherlands firmly resisted any laws for encryption backdoors.

“This [backdoors] would have undesirable consequences for the security of information stored and communicated and the integrity of ICT systems, which are increasingly of importance for the functioning of the society,” said the Dutch lawmakers in their statement.

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