Senate encryption bill draft mandates 'technical assistance'

Senate encryption bill draft mandates 'technical assistance'

A long-awaited Senate Intelligence Committee encryption bill would force companies to provide “technical assistance” to government investigators seeking locked data, according to a discussion draft obtained by The Hill.

The measure, from Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrOvernight Energy: Chemical safety regulator's nomination at risk | Watchdog scolds Zinke on travel records | Keystone pipeline spills 210,000 gallons of oil Overnight Regulation: Senators unveil bipartisan gun background check bill | FCC rolls back media regs | Family leave credit added to tax bill | Senate confirms banking watchdog Collins ‘leaning against’ Trump EPA chemical nominee MORE (R-N.C.) and ranking member Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinFive things to know about the elephant trophies controversy The feds need to be held accountable for role in Russia scandal Lawyer: Kushner is 'the hero' in campaign emails regarding Russia MORE (D-Calif.), is a response to concerns that criminals are increasingly using encrypted devices to hide from authorities.

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While law enforcement has long pressed Congress for such legislation, the tech community and privacy advocates warn that it would undermine security and endanger online privacy.

The nine-page discussion draft fits with its backers’ promise to produce a succinct bill. It's also subject to change, as it has not yet been introduced.

"We're still working on finalizing a discussion draft and as a result can’t comment on language in specific versions of the bill," Burr and Feinstein said in a joint statement. "We’re still in the process of soliciting input from stakeholders and hope to have final language ready soon.”

The measure states that a company must provide “information or data” to the government “in an intelligible format” when served with a court order.

If the company cannot meet this standard, it must offer “technical assistance as is necessary to obtain such information or data,” according to the draft.

The bill covers a wide array of companies and individuals that facilitate digital chatting, including device and software manufacturers, as well as providers of electronic communication services.

The type of data the government can seek under the bill encompases communications, details about the identities of the people communicating and any information stored remotely or on a device.

It’s not clear what would happen if a company did not comply with the requirements laid out in the bill.

See the full text below.

--This post was updated at 10:59 a.m.

Burr Encryption Bill - Discussion Draft