A bipartisan team of United States senators is reportedly close to introducing a controversial bill that would let law enforcement force companies to comply with court orders seeking access to encrypted data.
Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.), both members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, began working on the bill after mass shootings occurred in Paris in November, and in San Bernardino, California, in December.
Following the shootings, Feinstein said she was “going to seek legislation if nobody else is,” and she claimed that it was in sync with the changing world.
“I think this world is really changing in terms of people wanting the protection and wanting law enforcement, if there is conspiracy going on over the Internet, that that encryption ought to be able to be pierced,” Feinstein said.
One of Feinstein’s aides reportedly said that while the bill will require companies to decrypt previously encrypted data and turn it over to law enforcement, it does not list a specific penalty for noncompliance, which would leave the punishment up to the courts.
While the bill could be introduced this week, Feinstein told The Hill she passed the text along to the White House, leaving the timing of the introduction up to President Obama, and Burr said it “depends on how fast the White House gets back to us.”
The bill has received criticism from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who told the Huffington Post that he believes it will give tech companies few options, and as a result, “the American people will be less safe and less secure in their homes and neighborhoods.”
“I will do anything necessary to block a bill that weakens strong encryption,” Wyden said. “I will use every procedural tool in the Senate to block a bill that weakens strong encryption because I believe that weakening strong encryption will leave millions of Americans less safe and less secure.”
The introduction of Feinstein and Burr’s bill comes at a time when Apple Inc. is pushing back against the Department of Justice on 12 different court orders that would require the company to go from extracting contacts photos and call records from an iPhone, to designing new software that would let the government override the iPhone’s encryption altogether.