Apple might lose its encryption battle in New York

While Apple is still fighting any nationwide attempt to have backdoors installed in otherwise secure devices and Internet services, it might already be losing ground just in New York state alone. The state assembly has proposed a bill that, if approved and enacted, would force smartphone manufacturers and operating system provider, like Apple in both cases, to unlock and decrypted devices or risk being fined a hefty $2,500 per related device. This would, in turn, force Apple to weaken its encryption system and maybe even turn it off all together.

This proposed New York bill is not that different from a similar law being proposed in the UK and supported by Prime Minister David Cameron. The UK's Investigatory Powers Bill similarly requires even just the existence of a backdoor to devices and services sold or operating inside the country. It affects even non-UK companies like Apple or ZTE, as long as they operate within the territory. And like the UK, the New York bill's motives are claimed to be about protecting citizens and fighting criminal elements.

In both cases, the end result will be the same, which, for Apple, would be disastrous to the very users that the law claims to protect. Of course, Apple won't be the only company required to comply, but it has been one of the most vocal opponents of any such legislative move, especially considering how it implements encryption on its devices.

Apple's encryption system removes it from the equation. Encryption keys are known only to the user and aren't stored on Apple's servers. This practically resolves Apple of any obligation to unlock devices even against their owner's wishes, since it doesn't have to key to do so. The bill, however, would require Apple to backtrack on this implementation, storing a copy of the key for itself so that it could unlock devices and services at the government's behest.

Such a backdoor, however, will lead to the same criminal elements being able to access users' devices and data. That has been Apple's and other privacy advocates' mantra in fending off government attempts such as this. It isn't yet certain how for the New York bill will get, as it still has to be moved to the floor calendar and voted on by both assembly and Senate. It could, however, be a slippery slope that other states might, in the future, imitate.

VIA: On The Wire