A bill of a most interesting nature is being proposed in New York State. It's currently in committee, but if passed it would require all smartphones sold within the state to be capable of being decrypted and unlocked by law enforcement officials. It would force manufacturers and OS architects to build in a backdoor.
The piece of legislation reads:
“Any smartphone that is manufactured on or after January 1st, 2016, and sold or leased in New York, shall be capable of being decrypted and unlocked by its manufacturer or its operating system provider.”
Those who knowingly sell or lease a smartphone that cannot be decrypted and unlocked by its manufacturer or the operating system provider would face a penalty of $2,500 for each phone sold.
The proposed document speaks volumes: Give us a backdoor or be banned from our state. The move is a bold one and undermines much of the privacy rights consumers have been demanding of their smart devices.
If this bill were to pass, Apple's iPhones would face banishment from the state of New York, because of its default encryption settings. Because Apple doesn't want to lose out on sales in the fourth most populated state, the company would be forced to make a decision: Accept the ban or figure out a way to get around its own encryption settings or remove them entirely.
Default settings are what keep everyone safe from hackers to governments (both foreign and local), and legislators realize this won't change unless they force developers to make a change.
There are many easy ways for people to protect themselves online. But while booting up Tor and using DuckDuckGo to search are two of the easier steps people can take to protect their information online, many of the other aspects of protecting privacy are not, like email encryption. Many are paralyzed at the very notion of trying to figure out how to encrypt their movements online. The default settings are necessary for those who don't know how to protect themselves.
What's most frustrating is the people of the United States have already said their piece on this issue, when a petition asking the federal government to “[r]eject any law, policy, or mandate that would undermine our security” made the rounds on Whitehouse.gov. It received over 100,000 signatures.
Natalie has been writing professionally for about 6 years. After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Feature Writing, she snagged a job at PCMag.com where she had the opportunity to review all the latest consumer gadgets. Since then she has become a writer for hire, freelancing for various websites. In her spare time, you may find her riding her motorcycle, reading YA novels, hiking, or playing video games. Follow her on Twitter: @nat_schumaker
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