For years, Apple has done its best to protect the rights of its users from law enforcement and political groups breaching a phone’s security, especially if the public views the phone owner as a threat to the peace. This decision has created tension between the US government and Apple, with Donald Trump even going as far as accusing Apple of “refusing to unlock phones used by killers, drug dealers, and other violent criminal elements” despite how much the United States has helped the tech conglomerate grow their sales.
US Attorney General William Barr has seconded these statements, stating publicly that Apple has not done anything substantiative to help legal officials investigate the recent Pensacola shooter.
This isn’t a new conflict, but recent filings in Congress may give privacy advocates reason for concern. Senator Lindsey Graham (SC-R) recently filed a bill that would ban the act of encryption. Lindsey has followed Trump’s lead, accusing Apple of creating a safe haven for criminals. He even went as far as threatening Apple with “enforcing its will” upon them.
The bill that Graham recently filed is titled Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies (EARN IT) Act. According to those with access to said bill, EARN IT would modify section 230 of the Communications Decency Act so that companies are liable in both criminal cases and civil lawsuits regarding child abuse and exploitation if they don’t follow the best practices established by the commission.
As iDrop’s Jesse Hollington notes in his article on the bill:
“While many of these suggested best practices are more than reasonable — things, like offering parental controls and setting age limits, are already on the books in one form or another — the bill also requires companies to ‘preserve, remove from view, and report’ and material as well as retain any evidence that may pertain to such cases.
It’s important to note that the bill doesn’t specifically mention end-to-end encryption, but it’s easy to see how its requirements to preserve, report, and retain evidence could easily be used to eliminate end-to-end encryption, while also placing big tech companies like Apple in the role of gatekeepers that would need to not only retain unencrypted communications but could be held liable if they fail to actively monitor things like iMessage traffic in order to report suspected cases of child abuse and exploitation to law enforcement.”