California Bill Would Ban Encrypted Smartphones

It turns out that New York isn't the only state with uninformed state legislators with misguided thoughts on technology. California Assembly Member Jim Cooper (D-9th) introduced Assembly Bill 1681 this week, a bill that would ban the sale of all encrypted smartphones without backdoors available to the manufacturer.

California Assembly Member Jim Cooper Promo Shot

Promo shot of Assembly Member Cooper, in the middle
Source: Mr. Cooper's website

Put another way, Assembly Member Cooper wants to make all of us vulnerable to the hacking of criminal organizations, malicious hackers, and foreign governments, and he's trying to do it in the very state that is home to Apple and Google.

From the bill:

This bill would require a smartphone that is manufactured on or after January 1, 2017, and sold in California, to be capable of being decrypted and unlocked by its manufacturer or its operating system provider. The bill would, except as provided, subject a seller or lessor that knowingly failed to comply with that requirement to a civil penalty of $2,500 for each smartphone sold or leased.

This is similar to a bill introduced in the New York State Assembly by Assemblyman Matthew Titone, and they are both examples of state legislators well out of their depth when it comes to technology, at least as it pertains to encryption.

Such ignorance is the sort of thing that the Congressional Cybersecurity Lab being created by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars could help address. The CCL, however, is being aimed at national politicians, not the next tier down at the state level.

Which brings up the point of why there are two such second stringers who think they are more qualified to address this issue than regulators and politicians at the national level.

If Mr. Cooper represents you, write him and tell him that encryption efforts uniformly understand that a backdoor open to anyone is available to everyone, and that you will not vote for anyone trying to weaken our privacy and what protections we have against malicious actors on the global stage.