California’s legislature has introduced a new anti-encryption bill that, if passed, would result in a ban on iPhones and Android devices across the state.
On Wednesday, Californian assembly member Jim Cooper introduced the AB 1681, which if adopted by the legislature would mandate that “a smartphone that is manufactured on or after January 1, 2017, and sold in California,… be capable of being decrypted and unlocked by its manufacturer or its operating system provider.”
Those who failed to comply with the bill, such as a sellor or lessor, would face a civil penalty of $2,500 for each smartphone sold or leased. Smartphone purchasers would not have to foot any part of that penalty, and the Attorney General or a district attorney would be empowered to bring a civil suit to enforce the bill’s provisions.
Thus far, Cooper has framed the bill as a response to human trafficking rather than to encryption. In fact, at a press conference held earlier this week, the assembly member barely mentioned encryption at all.
Even so, he was adamant about the fact that privacy has its limits.
“If you’re a bad guy [we] can get a search record for your bank, for your house, you can get a search warrant for just about anything,” Cooper told Ars Technica in a brief phone call on Wednesday afternoon. “For the industry to say it’s privacy, it really doesn’t hold any water. We’re going after human traffickers and people who are doing bad and evil things. Human trafficking trumps privacy, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.”
The bill faces an uphill battle in its path to becoming law. As noted by Zack Whittaker of CNET, the bill’s passage would effectively result in a ban of all iPhones and most devices running Google’s Android mobile operating system across the state. The tech giants could decide to relent and weaken their products’ encryption, but such an outcome is uncertain given the fact that Apple, Google, Facebook, and a number of other Silicon Valley-based companies wrote a letter to President Obama in June of last year urging him to resist pursuing policies that would weaken encryption technology.
In order to become the law, California’s senate and legislature must pass the bill, and Governor Jerry Brown must sign it into law.