This article was published on April 8, 2016

Proposed senate bill would kill online privacy as we know it

Proposed senate bill would kill online privacy as we know it
Bryan Clark
Story by

Bryan Clark

Former Managing Editor, TNW

Bryan is a freelance journalist. Bryan is a freelance journalist.

Apple and the FBI both started to veer toward the same stance in the San Bernardino iPhone case: we need better policy. It’s on its way, but if passed, it’s certainly not the policy Apple had hoped for.

The latest version of the Compliance with Court Orders Act of 2016 requires companies provide government with “intelligible data” or “technical assistance” to access encrypted data when presented a court order.

In a joint statement, senators Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein noted:

“The underlying goal is simple: When there’s a court order to render technical assistance to law enforcement or provide decrypted information, that court order is carried out. No individual or company is above the law.”

While Feinstein wants to make it quite clear that the government isn’t seeking “any specific design or operating system,” this sort of legislation would essentially pre-build a backdoor into nearly any encrypted device — a move that would be disastrous for user privacy.

Kevin Bankston, director of New America’s Open Technology Institute, told Daily Dot that the new bill is essentially asking us all to lay down arms in the fight to secure or data against bad actors worldwide.

“I can say without exaggeration that this draft bill is the most ludicrous, dangerous, technically illiterate tech policy proposal of the 21st century so far.”

In the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, encryption has become the focal point of a global war on terrorism. While politicians wax poetic about the dangers of encryption, it’s clear at this point the only danger is in removing it entirely or enacting government backdoors.

The Paris attackers, after all, used burner phones — not encryption — to plot their attacks.

Whether through apathy or ignorance, politicians still don’t seem to get the importance of encryption — the mathematical workhorse that allows all of us to retain some semblance of normalcy in a world marked by thieves and hackers using automated scripts to pilfer, plunder and purge.

This legislation — if approved — could conceivably provide marginally better results for tracking extremist communications, but at what cost? A slightly better arrest rate for the demolition of any sense of online privacy for the 99-plus percent of us that aren’t terrorists doesn’t sound like a trade worth making.

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