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New York bill aims to force smartphone decryption, backdoor access
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Jan 15, 2016, 01:49 PM
 
Smartphone manufacturers must provide a way to easily unlock or decrypt their devices for law enforcement purposes, a bill going through the New York state assembly has demanded. Introduced last summer, the bill has been referred to a committee in the last week, with vendors facing a potential fine of $2,500 for every smartphone or mobile device produced this year or sold in New York that fails to comply, if the bill passes.

The bill was introduced by Assemblyman Matthew Titone, reports On The Wire, with security being the only justification for the bill's implementation. "The safety of the citizenry calls for a legislative solution, and a solution is easy at hand," according to notes on the bill. "Enacting this bill would penalize those who would sell smartphones that are beyond the reach of law enforcement."

"The fact is that, although new software may enhance privacy for some users, it severely hampers law enforcement's ability to aid victims. All of the evidence contained in smartphones and similar devices will be lost to law enforcement, so long as the criminals take the precaution of protecting their devices with passcodes. Of course they will do so. Simply stated, passcode-protected devices render lawful court orders meaningless and encourage criminals to act with impunity."

After the committee referral, the bill now needs to move to the floor calendar, before being voted upon in the assembly and the senate.

The bill is the latest salvo in the battle between governments and the technology industry over encryption. While government officials want weaker security and backdoors so law enforcement officials and surveillance agencies can more easily access data stored on devices by individuals of interest, tech companies argue that weakened security for law enforcement purposes is weaker security overall for device owners.

Notably in the last few months, Apple was drawn into a case where the government wanted to compel the company to unlock an iPhone belonging to a suspect in a drug-related case. At the end of October, the Justice Department and the New York District Court stopped applying pressure on Apple, after the defendant pleaded guilty and there was no need to access the potential evidence on the device.
     
MacMan2000
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Jan 15, 2016, 03:29 PM
 
These are issues that I have with this bill....

1. a potential fine of $2,500 for every smartphone or mobile device produced this year or sold in New York that fails to comply, if the bill passes. --- I live in Nebraska, so you cant sue apple for my device being that I don't reside in New York!
2. A court order is always required for law enforcement to gain access to locked/secured areas/items. For example, your glove box, if it is locked, there has to be a separate warrant issued for them to access it. If you have a safe in your home, and it is locked, a separate warrant issued for them to access it. Most warrants don't include separately locked items.
3. Simply stated, passcode-protected devices render lawful court orders meaningless and encourage criminals to act with impunity. --- If the user has protected it, get a warrant to force it to be unlocked.
4. You also have to remember, there are 1000's of apps out there that also provide additional security for its users. There are also fake apps that look like a calculator/game/ect that have hidden storages as well. This bill would also need to address that as well, for these are not part of the original security provided by the maker of the phone, so, additional warrants would also be necessary in order to gain access to these as well.
     
Charles Martin
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Jan 15, 2016, 03:56 PM
 
That's ignoring the principle issue -- if there is a backdoor for "law enforcement" (I use these quotes on purpose), then there is also a back door for criminals, hackers, spyware, etc.

Why the authoritarian types pretend this isn't the case shows how out-of-touch with reality too many US leaders are.
Charles Martin
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prl99
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Jan 15, 2016, 05:07 PM
 
@MacMan2000 Rebuttal to #3. "The Fifth Amendment (Amendment V) to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights and protects a person against being compelled to be a witness against himself or herself in a criminal case." (wikipedia) Therefore, I don't have to give the police or the court my password to unlock my phone if I believe there's something on it that could be used against me in a court of law. This is the reason why the authorities want to bypass my constitutional rights against self-incrimination and simply unlock my phone in case they think there might be something on it that would help them incriminate me (rebuttal to #2). As for #1, the courts can do anything they want to without regard to where you live. Charles is correct and his response is the biggest issue with personal privacy and something Google, Facebook and many other companies attempt to violate every single second. They don't need to worry about encrypted mobile devices, once you connect to their website, your data is decrypted and available to them. It really would be helpful if everyone in Congress, the NSA, FBI, CIA and your local police actually understood what's going on and would stop using the stupid DHS mantra, that everything has to do with terrorism so nobody has any rights.
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Jan 15, 2016, 05:09 PM
 
It's probable that we wrote an editorial about this, just yesterday.

Editorial: the political dog and pony encryption show | MacNN
     
DiabloConQueso
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Jan 15, 2016, 05:54 PM
 
"2. A court order is always required for law enforcement to gain access to locked/secured areas/items. For example, your glove box, if it is locked, there has to be a separate warrant issued for them to access it. If you have a safe in your home, and it is locked, a separate warrant issued for them to access it. Most warrants don't include separately locked items."

Methinks you need to brush up on your law degree. Locked containers absolutely can be searched if they are within the scope of a search warrant. There is no need for a separate and specific search warrant for the locked container.

If the police come to your house and have a search warrant for the premises concerning illegal drugs, then they can absolutely search a safe or locked container, because it would be reasonable for drugs to fit in there.

On the other hand, if the police come to your house looking for a stolen horse, they would not be permitted to search a small locking box or safe, because it would not be reasonable to assume the horse would be inside of those things.

This notion of separate and specific search warrants being required for locking containers is hogwash. In fact, under certain circumstances, locked containers can be searched even in the complete absence of ANY search warrant (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Ross).

This sounds eerily similar to the hogwash rumors we "learned" as kids, like the imbecilic notion that "if you ask an undercover officer if he or she is member of law enforcement, they have to answer you truthfully."
     
MacMan2000
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Jan 15, 2016, 06:13 PM
 
under certain circumstances, locked containers can be searched even in the complete absence of ANY search warrant. Hence in the majority of cases, they need a warrant! You might want to brush up on SCOTUS, Diablo.

Uncertainty about cellphone searches prevailed until June of 2014, when the U.S. Supreme Court held that police officers generally need warrants to search the cellphones of arrestees. (For more on the cases leading to the ruling, see SCOTUS: Cellphone Searches Require Warrants.) It basically says, that they can search it if it has NO password on it. If there is a password, they can get a court order to force the unlocking of it. Although, that can also be questionable as well.
     
DiabloConQueso
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Jan 15, 2016, 06:39 PM
 
In the majority of circumstances, yes, a warrant is needed -- but not a specific and exact warrant for a locked container.

A search warrant for your home, more often than not, affords law enforcement the right to search inside locked containers inside your home. They don't need two search warrants (one for the home and one for the locked container), they only need the one.

If law enforcement has probable cause, they can search ANY locked container in your car without a search warrant at all.

"For example, your glove box, if it is locked, there has to be a separate warrant issued for them to access it. If you have a safe in your home, and it is locked, a separate warrant issued for them to access it. Most warrants don't include separately locked items."

Your original assertion there that law enforcement needs a specific and separate search warrant (apart from other search warrants they might already have) for a locked container is absolutely not true. There is nothing special about a locked container that requires a specific and separate search warrant for it outside of any existing search warrants.
     
Flying Meat
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Jan 15, 2016, 08:15 PM
 
Seems like both overreach, and a money grab. What could go wrong?
     
MitchIves
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Jan 15, 2016, 10:35 PM
 
New York needs a drug testing policy... these people are on crack. This will not happen. It'll be appealed immediately.

Better yet, every phone manufacturer needs to cease selling phones in NY. Then the citizens will go to the Legislature with pitchforks and torches. It won't be pretty...
     
Steve Wilkinson
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Jan 16, 2016, 12:20 AM
 
Maybe, if Cook is being honest, this is a shot across the bow?
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Steve Wilkinson
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