Apple faces €1m fine per iPhone unlocking refusal in France

Despite its victory in court yesterday, Apple is still facing an uphill battle when it comes to iPhones, encryption, and the company's staunch refusal to obey every unlock order that comes its way. France has proposed a million Euro fine for every iPhone the company refuses to unlock. The same penalty could apply to Google under similar conditions, and is being considered as a way to strong arm companies into giving governments access to suspected terrorists' smartphone data.

Apple was recently on the receiving end of a big legal victory in which a judge ruled the company cannot be forced to unlock iPhones under the All Writs Act, a law signed into place by George Washington. The U.S. government has used (tried to use) the All Writs Act to force Apple into unlocking iPhones, something that has become increasingly burdensome, Apple has argued. Unfortunately, new issues are mounting quickly across the pond.

According to a new report from the French publication Le Parisien, French politicians Yann Galut has submitted an amendment to a bill that is aimed at strengthening the government's ability to fight terrorism and other unsavory things, including organized crime and financial crimes.

Data encryption has proved as troublesome for French law enforcement as it has the FBI — in France, 8 smartphones belonging to suspected terrorists were unaccessible last year, further spurring frustration toward phone manufacturers, primarily Samsung and Apple.

Says Galut, taking a jab at the companies' respective privacy policies:

We are faced with a legal vacuum when it comes to data encryption, and it's blocking judicial investigations. Only money will force these extremely powerful companies like Apple and Google to comply ... They are hiding behind a supposed privacy protection, but they're quick to make commercial use of personal data that they're collecting.

Under the proposal, companies like Apple that fail to respond "promptly" to unlock orders will be hit with a massive 1 million Euro fine, something that wouldn't be an "exceptional punishment" for such wealthy companies, the politician argues. It appears the proposed fine would be a one-lump sum that could be applied a single time per instance. Galut goes on to discus the issue of privacy, saying:

The amendment respects a balance between consumer privacy and security needs. Only the judge or the prosecutor will have access to the encryption key smartphone manufacturers [provide]. Also, this key will be used only for mobile devices involved in court proceedings. The police and justice would, by no means, have access to a general key that provides access to all citizens' mobile phone data.