White House flushes away court-ordered decryption like it was a stinky dead goldfish

Forthcoming legislation looks dead in the water

Multiple sources have reported that the White House isn't keen on forthcoming legislation that would force companies to decrypt their products if a court orders it.

For the last couple of weeks, US Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) have been sounding out members of Congress over their bill to give courts greater powers to enforce the decryption of suspects' computers and smartphones.

The legislation is expected to be introduced in Congress as early as this week, but Reuters reports that the White House has seen the text and won't be throwing its weight behind the legislative push. Sources cited the controversial nature of the matter and the fact that there's an election year coming up.

Burr and Feinstein are the senior ranking members on the Senate Intelligence Committee and both are firm supporters of law enforcement on such matters. After the Snowden revelations about bulk data collection, Senator Feinstein introduced a bill to legalize such practices and Burr has said he won't support investigations into the intelligence agencies.

Their proposed encryption legislation hasn't been published yet, but is thought to include provisions that would force companies to decrypt data when ordered. However, it reportedly doesn't lay down how this might be done, nor if there will be penalties for non-compliance.

The White House has waxed and waned on the encryption debate. After initially seeming receptive to the idea of backdoors in encryption, last November the government decided against pushing for such a measure and left it for the courts to sort out.

After the FBI tried and failed to force Apple to decrypt an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters, the issue resurfaced with Burr and Feinstein both touting legislation to force companies to help the police in such circumstances.

Without White House support, such a bill would have little support in Congress. Both Democrats and the libertarian wing of the Republican Party aren't keen on the prospect, and – as was pointed out – this is an election year, so don't expect politicians to take risks. ®


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