UPDATE: The chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee will not pursue previously reported plans to create "criminal penalties" for companies that disobey court orders to help authorities decipher encrypted communication, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Though Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., wants to introduce criminal provisions with tights rules surrounding encryption, his planned legislation will not include "criminal penalties," according to Burr's spokesperson, the Journal reported.
- The chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee is crafting legislation to create "criminal penalties" for companies that disobey court orders to decipher encrypted communication, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
- Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., has not yet finalized plans for the bill. He has recently worked extensively with tech companies, urging them to cooperate with law enforcement to help curb the use of encryption tools in criminal activity.
- It is unclear whether Burr will gain support for his legislation, as lawmakers have remained divided on whether or not to pursue criminal charges against companies in the ongoing encryption debate.
Burr's proposed legislation comes in light of the ongoing dispute between Apple and federal authorities. Earlier this week, a federal judge ordered Apple to create what the company is calling a "backdoor" into its iPhone operating system in order to help the FBI further investigate the San Bernardino attack. Apple's CEO Tim Cook openly opposed the order and said that the tool authorities are requesting is "something we consider too dangerous to create."
But Burr's move is not just in reaction to recent events. He has said that both district attorneys and federal prosecutors have complained to him that encryption has impeded investigations because of how hard it is to retrieve evidence. In response, Burr wants tech companies to adjust their business practices to help make encryption not so, well, encrypted.
Tech companies will not this lightly as they continue to tout consumer privacy rights. Any intrusion into devices and encryption is a slippery slope, with companies believing that granting small permissions to federal authorities could make way for further intrusion in the future. While some politicians have urged for finding a middle ground in the encryption debate, it is unlikely that either tech companies or legislators will want to back down.