The California Bill to Undermine Smartphone Encryption Actually Got Worse (EFF)


State lawmakers recently introduced some misguided changes to California’s Assembly Bill 1681, which would require that manufacturers and operating system providers be able to decrypt smartphones sold in the state. On first glance, the amendment to A.B. 1681 might seem to address some of EFF’s previous criticisms, but the new version actually makes an already bad bill even worse. EFF has signed on to a new letter in opposition to the bill, and you can still join our action calling on lawmakers to vote against it.

The bill’s authors explain that A.B. 1681 is intended to prevent smartphone encryption from thwarting law enforcement investigations by ensuring that companies whose phones are sold in California can decrypt them if ordered to do so. An earlier version would have required that phones be decryptable “at the time of sale” by imposing a civil penalty of $2,500 per device on any company knowingly selling a phone that could not be decrypted. In current form, though, the bill instead penalizes companies if they are “unable to decrypt the contents of the smartphone pursuant to a state court order.”