As Apple battled the FBI for the last two months over the agency’s demands that Apple help crack its own encryption, both the tech community and law enforcement hoped that Congress would weigh in with some sort of compromise solution. Now Congress has spoken on crypto, and privacy advocates say its “solution” is the most extreme stance on encryption yet.
On Thursday evening, Senators Richard Burr and Diane Feinstein released the draft text of what they’ve called the “Compliance with Court Orders Act of 2016,” a nine-page piece of legislation that would require people to comply with any authorized court order for data. And if that data were “unintelligible,” the law demands that it be rendered “intelligible.” In other words, the bill would outlaw the sort of user-controlled encryption that’s in every modern iPhone, in all billion devices that run Whatsapp’s messaging service, and in dozens of other tech products. “This basically outlaws end-to-end encryption,” says Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology. “It’s effectively the most anti-crypto bill of all anti-crypto bills.”