France could fine Apple $1m for each iPhone it fails to unlock

French politicians are calling for tough penalties on tech companies that don't assist police in criminal investigations.


Reports suggest French police were unable to access data on eight phones last year during terror investigations.

Image: iStock

French politicians are debating tough new sanctions on Apple if it fails to comply with court orders requiring it to unlock an iPhone in a terror investigation.

Yann Galut, a member of France's Socialist Party, on Friday tabled an amendment to France's laws that could result in Apple being fined €1m ($1.1m) if it does not unlock an iPhone, according to The Local.

In an interview with Le Parisien, Galut said Apple and Google must be compelled to provide access to content stored on locked devices, or else face fines.

According to the publication, French police were unable to access data on eight phones last year during terror investigations.

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Galut said the courts would instruct Apple and other device manufacturers to supply an encryption key for the specific device in a criminal investigation. He added that police would not have "a general key", often referred to in the US as a 'golden key', to access data on all phones.

In January the French government rejected a proposal that sought to require tech companies to create a backdoor to bypass encryption.

French politicians on Tuesday debated laws to bolster anti-terror capabilities and expedite criminal investigations, including how to compel US tech giants to assist police access to encrypted data on smartphones in investigations.

The developments in France come amid Apple's fight with the FBI over access to an iPhone 5c used by one of the San Bernardino shooters in December, which was referred to by French politicians in the debate.

Apple has been ordered to develop a firmware update that would allow the FBI to bypass security features designed to stymie password-guessing attacks on locked iPhones.

Some in the US are worried the court order will give other nations a blueprint for forcing US companies to create a backdoor.

Galut's opponents on Tuesday suggested even tougher sanctions on tech companies that don't cooperate in criminal and terror investigations.

Eric Ciotti, a Republican politician, said his party's amendment would fine tech companies €2m for failing to assist during a criminal investigation and a further "deterrent threat" of a ban on marketing of all products and services for up to one year.

Ciotti went on to reference NSA director Admiral Michael Rogers who last month said the Paris attacks "would not have happened" were it not for encrypted communications.

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