State Senate Bill A8093 is the first attempt to limit sales
By Tom Risen
A New York lawmaker has introduced a bill that aims to restrict cellphones using encryption software that do not enable access for law enforcement.
The bill sponsored by New York Assemblyman Matthew Titone would mandate that devices sold in the state would be “capable of being decrypted and unlocked by its manufacturer.” It threatens to penalize retailers if they don’t comply. Titone first introduced the bill in June, and it was referred to committee earlier this month.
It is unclear if the bill has the votes to pass the legislature and if it would be signed by the governor, but Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. has publicly opposed the use of encryption, citing its potential to give terrorists and criminals a way to hide their plans from law enforcement. Vance reportedly recommended the bill to Titone, and his staff told Newsweek it was proposed by 62 New York district attorneys “seeking the assistance of their legislators.”
If the law passed, New Yorkers who want encrypted phones could likely still buy one in another state, driving business away from New York retailers.
Law enforcement officials including FBI Director James Comey have criticized Google and Apple for pledging that they would no longer hold the keys for encrypted products, limiting their ability to share a user’s data at the request of the government.
Presidential candidates including Donald Trump, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush have criticized the risks of tech companies offering encrypted services. Apple CEO Tim Cook and computer engineers have said that weakening encryption with “backdoors” to allow monitoring by law enforcement would increase cybersecurity risks, adding that terrorists would simply find another way to communicate discreetly.
The New York bill is the first attempt to restrict encryption at the state level, Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Andrew Crocker says, so it “might be beyond the power of a state to even pass such a regulation.”
“Depending on how the law works, it might be subject to a number of other constitutional challenges, including under the First Amendment,” Crocker says.
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