As New York looks to ban encrypted smartphones, here's what you can do

A new website lets New Yorkers vote on if they want legislation to become law.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor
(Image: CNET/CBS Interactive)

Democracy for New Yorkers just got a little bit easier, and it couldn't come at a more crucial juncture.

A proposed bill in New York aims to require that all smartphones sold in the state can be decrypted or unlocked by law enforcement. The bill, currently in the senate's committee stage, must pass through both New York's state senate and assembly in order to become law.

ZDNet's Liam Tung had the details:

"Apple and Google could face fines of $2,500 per device sold in the state after January 1, 2016, if a retailer knowingly sold a smartphone that could not be unlocked or decrypted by the device manufacturer or operating-system provider."

The proposed bill comes as lawmakers and SIlicon Valley tech giants are figuring out how to come to a compromise on device encryption without handing over the keys to the government, or giving its law enforcement and intelligence agencies unfettered access.

The debate continues to roll on, sparked in part by by Apple's move to encrypt data by default on its most recent iPhones and iPads. Google also followed suit with some of its Android phones.

But what makes this story different from almost any other is that New Yorkers can have a say, and help determine the outcome of the vote -- if it makes it to the senate floor.

The New York Senate's new website, written about in The New York Times and Politico, lands with a set of virtual voting buttons, which give New York residents the ability to register their views on a bill with "aye" or "nay" buttons.

The aim is when a senator comes to vote, they can see from their website's dashboards which way their constituents want their lawmaker to vote. The submitted tallies are relayed to senators' private websites, powered by open-source platform Drupal 7, who can see in aggregate which side of the public opinion they should be on.

And if a senator votes against the grain, that's when the 19.7 million New Yorkers can start asking questions.

Dubbed as the "first-ever of its kind" in any legislature in the US, the web service reportedly cost just $525,000 over two years, said to be $2.5 million under budget, reports Politico.

The site's success could see the platform roll out to the New York state assembly, but also other legislatures around the US. But as is the nature of the government beast, there are no public plans for the near future.

Whether you care about encryption and privacy, or just don't want to be left out in the cold when the new iPhone upgrade lands down the line, there's a lot not to like in this bill.

You can vote on the bill by visiting the site's legislation page, and signing up or logging in via Facebook.

For privacy and security, change these iOS 9 settings right now

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