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Proposed Bills would make it Easier to Access Phone Data

Posted by Seth Chazin | Feb 17, 2016 | 0 Comments

Lawmakers and law enforcement groups in New York and California are pushing bills to enable investigators to unscramble data to obtain evidence in certain criminal cases, such as human trafficking and child pornography.

The bills aim to loosen the encryption tools that cell-phone companies have put in place to protect a smartphone user's privacy and prevent hacking. Supporters of the bill argue that law enforcement officials need access to data to help prove or solve criminal cases, while on the other hand privacy groups and technology groups are concerned that such legislation would put a user's personal information at risk.

Senator Dianne Feinstein plans to introduce a bill that requires companies to provide encrypted data when they are presented with a court order. Encryption helps protect data such as photos, messages, e-mails, contacts and call history on smartphones by scrambling the information so that is can't be seen unless someone unlocks the phone with a passcode.

Before Edward Snowden released information on the government accessing citizens' phone data in 2014, almost all smartphones had encryption protections that could be unscrambled by manufacturers. This means that if law enforcement took a search warrant and a cell phone to a manufacturer like Apple, they would be able to unlock the phone for you.

Now, cell phone manufacturers have encrypted the information and hard drives so that the data cannot be accessed as easily, and the data can only be accessed with the passcode set by the user. Under this stronger encryption, companies do not have the capability of unlocking protected material.

The bill would roll back the technology that encrypts these phones and would make it easier to unlock the device by manufacturers. Manufacturers would face a fine for each phone that is sold without the decryption feature.

About the Author

Seth Chazin

Seth P. Chazin has aggressively defended clients in thousands of felony and misdemeanor cases for over 30 years. He has extensive experience representing criminal defendants in federal and state court, while handling both state and federal appeals as well.


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“The death penalty is a lie, a misguided mistake born of anger and frustration. Capital punishment has become a perverse monument to inequality, to how some lives matter and others do not. It is a violent example of how we protect and value the rich and abandon and devalue the poor. The death penalty is a grim, disturbing shadow formed by the legacy of racial apartheid and bias against the poor that condemns the disfavored among us, but corrupts us all. It’s the perverse symbol elected officials use to strengthen their ‘tough on crime’ reputations and distract us from confronting the causes of violence. It is finally the enemy of grace, redemption and all of us who recognize that each person is more than their worse act.”
- Bryan Stevenson