NY State Legislator Proposes Ban On Sale of Encrypted Smartphonesby Tim Cushing
Jan. 12, 2016
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It appears someone's listening to
A month later, as the mockery of his encryption white paper died down, Vance decided he would be the bad guy and openly stated that if Apple wasn't going to give him what he wanted, it could be forced to do so by the government. Lo and behold, New York Senator Assemblyman Matthew Titone has answered Vance's call for action. In what is likely the nation's first proposed ban on encryption, Titone's introduced bill forbids the sale of smartphones that can't be cracked by their manufacturers. (h/t Nate Cardozo)
ANY SMARTPHONE THAT IS MANUFACTURED ON OR AFTER JANUARY FIRST, TWO THOUSAND SIXTEEN, AND SOLD OR LEASED IN NEW YORK, SHALL BE CAPABLE OF BEING DECRYPTED AND UNLOCKED BY ITS MANUFACTURER OR ITS OPERATING SYSTEM PROVIDER.This isn't Titone's first attempt at this legislation, something that can be gleaned by the fact that the proposed legislation still contains wording suggesting January 1, 2016 is still somewhere off in the future. This bill made its debut last year, roughly nine months after Apple announced its plan to offer encryption by default.
The proposed legislation was introduced in the Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection [wft?] on June 8th, 2015. Nothing happened then, but a new legislative session is upon us and Titone re-submitted his bill to the same committee last week.
There has been no fanfare accompanying this twice-submitted legislation, most likely due to it potentially toxic side effects. Even Titone's own Senate page -- where press releases seem to accompany all of his other sponsored bills -- has nothing to say about this one. Still, the bill has attracted two co-sponsors: Walter Mosley and Patricia Fahy.
Interestingly, or perhaps more accurately, infuriatingly, the bill would hold retailers responsible for manufacturers' actions. Apple Stores would apparently be unable to sell any smartphones and every service provider would have to eliminate any phones with default encryption from their lineups.
The wording isn't a ban on encryption, per se. But it does make the sale of encrypted phones illegal -- pretty much accomplishing the same thing without having to require backdoors or forbid manufacturers from offering default encryption in the other 49 states. That latter part is the loophole New York can't close, even if this stupid piece of legislation passes.
New York's sky-high tobacco taxes have turned New York City into a massive secondary market for cigarette cartons that fell off a truck/were purchased across state lines. This would basically do the same thing for smartphones, creating a market for phones purchased in other states but deployed in New York. The bill doesn't even attempt to address this loophole, laying pretty much all of the culpability at the feet of local resellers. Purchasers aren't forbidden from deploying their own encryption and secondhand phones containing built-in encryption can be bought and sold without fear of repercussion.
In all likelihood, Titone's bill will die another death on the cold hard assembly floor. The bill is bad in multiple ways, but not in any of the ways immediately appealing to undecided politicians. The spiel accompanying the bill attempts to press all of the right buttons ("There is no reason criminals should also benefit, and they will, as people will be defrauded or threatened, and terrorists will use these encrypted devices to plot their next attack over FaceTime..."), but informing the nation's largest phone manufacturers that their products can't be sold in New York isn't exactly the sort of message many legislators are willing to send.