Wyden reintroduces bill protecting locked phones from fed

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenGOP senator: Raising corporate taxes is a 'non-starter' Democrats get good news from IRS IRS chief warns of unpaid taxes hitting trillion MORE (D-Ore.) is reintroducing legislation that bars the government from requiring technology companies to build so-called "backdoor" security vulnerabilities into their devices to allow access to their data. 

Wyden first introduced the bill last December after FBI director James Comey criticized moves by some phone companies to encrypt devices to prevent anyone from accessing their data without permission, even law enforcement.  

Comey has called on Congress to update a 1994 law to allow a workaround, saying the  phone locks could stall some law enforcement investigations. 


“The problem with this proposal is that there is no such thing as a magic key that can only be used by good people for worthwhile reasons,” Wyden said in a floor statement Thursday. “There is only strong security or weak security.”

Similar legislation passed the House last year. 

Wyden said public trust in technology companies has been eroded by the disclosures of secret government surveillance programs. He said updating the law would prevent companies from rebuilding consumer trust.

He has also warned that intentional security weaknesses for law enforcement could be exploited by others and that the move would give less incentive for companies to invest in robust data security. 

A law already governs law enforcement's ability to tap landline phones, but it does not extend to data from mobile devices. The FBI has pressed for an update as mobile companies like Apple and Google build stronger encryption on their devices.

— This post was updated at 3:45 p.m.