Senate drafting bill to force tech companies comply with FBI demands

Update – 3:20 p.m. EST: Reuters is reporting that Apple has filed a follow-up brief with the federal court in Los Angeles which had issued an order for the company to access Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone for the FBI.

In the legal document submitted Thursday, Apple argues that the court order violates the First Amendment and is “unprecedented”.


New legislation which would force technology companies comply with all federal law enforcement orders to access encrypted data is in the process of being drafted by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and Vice-Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

The issue of compliance has gained national attention after Apple refused a court order to provide the FBI with “reasonable technical assistance” in helping unlock San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone.

In an interview with Bloomberg from Washington, D.C., Sen. Burr accused Apple of “breaking the law.”

Burr’s and Feinstein’s proposal could be introduced in the Senate as early as March, and would preempt private enterprises from citing privacy laws or the Fourth Amendment as reasons for ignoring government citations which demand entry to encrypted devices of suspected criminals.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), an Intelligence Committee member, commented that the aforementioned bill, “would in effect be a substantial set back from the standpoint of security, liberty, and America’s ability to have high-skilled, high-wage jobs.”

A letter dated Feb. 17 from Apple to a judge in Brooklyn overseeing a case involving an arraigned drug dealer who used an iPhone states that the government has demanded the California-based tech company unlock 12 such devices in nine formal requests from prosecutors in New York, Chicago, and California since October.

Apple has refused to comply with seven of those nine requests.


[Bloomberg] [Photo courtesy]