SAN FRANCISCO — The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee is writing a bill that would penalize companies for failing to decrypt technology following court orders, according to multiple reports. The proposed legislation is in reaction to Apple, which publicly opposed such an order earlier this week.
The proposal by Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., would penalize companies that fail to decipher encrypted messages following government orders, according to CNBC. Experts say this type of information can help law enforcement deal with criminals and terrorists.
The Wall Street Journal said Burr's bill would include criminal penalties for companies that do not comply, but a spokeswoman for Burr has said that is not true. "Chairman Burr is not considering criminal penalties in his draft encryption proposals," said the spokeswoman, without giving more details about the proposal.
Burr's proposed legislation comes after Apple CEO Tim Cook published a public letter opposing orders to create custom software that would allow the FBI to get into the iPhone of Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the two shooters who killed 14 people in a Dec. 2 attack in San Bernardino, California.
"The newest Apple operating systems allow device access only to users — even Apple itself can’t get in," Burr wrote in a recent op-ed for USA Today. "Murderers, pedophiles, drug dealers and the others are already using this technology to cover their tracks."
Predictably, the tech industry is already opposing Burr's legislation. "The world has moved mobile with consumers expecting access to their most important data through the cloud. The smartphones and tablets we use must maintain the strongest security to keep our most sensitive, private data safe," said Morgan Reed, executive director of ACT | The App Association, a tech industry trade group.