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 BurrThe 17 Republicans who voted to advance the Senate infrastructure bill Senate votes to take up infrastructure deal Senators say they have deal on 'major issues' in infrastructure talks MORE (R-N.C.) and ranking member Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinNearly 140 Democrats urge EPA to 'promptly' allow California to set its own vehicle pollution standards Biden signs bill to bolster crime victims fund Stripping opportunity from DC's children 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