April 10, 2016

Senators want to destroy cellphone privacy

Intercept - A long anticipated draft of anti-encryption legislation written by the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee circulated land left may critics apoplectic.

The bill, from Sens. Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein, would force technology companies to either decrypt the contents of their customers’ communications for law enforcement, or hack into their own products to do so — effectively rendering illegal the end-to-end encryption currently offered by some of the heaviest hitters in the business, like Apple, Facebook, Google, and now WhatsApp.

Feinstein and Burr told reporters they were still working on the draft and couldn’t comment on the language of an unfinished version.

Feinstein threw down the gauntlet in December, vowing to push for a bill that would mandate breakable encryption even if no one else would, including the White House. Privacy advocates who expected the worst weren’t disappointed.

Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., told The Intercept in an emailed statement the draft was concerning. “This legislation says a company can design what they want their back door to look like, but it would definitely require them to build a back door. For the first time in America, companies who want to provide their customers with stronger security would not have that choice – they would be required to decide how to weaken their products to make you less safe.”

“Burr-Feinstein may be the most insane thing I’ve ever seen seriously offered as a piece of legislation. It is ‘do magic’ in legalese,” tweeted Julian Sanchez, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute studying privacy and technology.

“Well, the Feinstein-Burr bill is pretty much as clueless and unworkable as I expected it would be,” tweeted Matthew Green, a cryptography professor at Johns Hopkins University.

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