Senate 'anti-security' bill that would require encryption backdoors is 'dead'

The bill would have effectively outlawed end-to-end encryption, critics argued.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

(Image: file photo via CBSNews.com)

A bipartisan bill that would have forced tech companies to put encryption backdoors in order to ensure customer data can always be turned over to the government is reportedly "dead."

The news was first reported by Reuters on Friday, which said a lack of support from the Obama administration, as well as an "ambivalence" by the NSA and CIA, which argue the bill would interfere with its encryption efforts should it become law.

Silicon Valley giants were resoundingly mute upon the bill's debut, but the report also said that the tech industry had no support for the bill -- a position not all surprising given the pro-encryption push by tech companies since the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations.

One civil liberties groups heralded the bill's demise. The Electronic Frontier Foundation called the bill "terrible for digital security," and was mocked as a "do magic" bill by security thought leaders.

The bill released last month by Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), two leading senators on the Senate Intelligence Committee, would require tech companies and phone makers to decrypt customer data at a court's request.

But with the constant, looming threats of nation-state attackers, encryption keeps vital information scrambled and unreadable to the outside eye -- and keeps data on the internet secure.

It came in the aftermath of the Apple vs. FBI ruckus, in which the government pushed the technology giant to write new software that would bypass the unbreakable encryption on the iPhone used by the San Bernardino shooter -- a request that Apple denied.

That refusal to help pushed Feinstein and Burr to create the Compliance With Court Orders Act, which congressional colleague Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) said in a tweet would "undermine the foundation of cybersecurity for millions of Americans," making them "less safe."

The Burr-Feinstein bill echoed similar sentiments announced at the state level in California and New York, both of which would prohibit the sale of encrypted devices that can't be opened by law enforcement.

Neither Burr or Feinstein's offices could be reached for comment on Sunday.

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