U.S. Senator Richard Burr has proposed a bill that would let judges order technology companies to assist law enforcement agencies in breaking into encrypted data. The bill is emerging just as the U.S. Justice Department is trying to use the courts to force Apple to help unlock encrypted iPhones.
The technology community believes strong encryption is essential to keep hackers and others from disrupting the Internet, but law enforcement officials worried about being unable to decrypt devices and communications of criminal suspects.
According to the bill, all providers of communications services and products (including software) should protect the privacy of United States persons through implementation of appropriate data security and "still respect the rule of law and comply with all legal requirements and court orders."
In addition, "all persons receiving an authorized judicial order for information or data "must provide, in a timely manner, responsive, intelligible information or data, or appropriate technical assistance to obtain such information or data."
The fight over encryption has been at the center of a months long dispute between Apple and the FBI over a phone linked to one of the San Bernardino, Calif., shooters.
Though the Justice Department withdrew its request in that case after FBI somehow managed to unlock the phone, it announced Friday it would move ahead with an appeal of a court ruling blocking the government from forcing Apple to help unlock an iPhone in a separate New York case.