The White House is refusing to publicly support new draft legislation that would give judges the right to force tech companies like Apple to help law enforcement break encrypted data.
The measure was put forward by Sens. Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein, respectively the Republican chair and top Democrat of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Both Burr and Feinstein have been contacted by the FBI regarding a briefing on how the bureau was able to circumvent iPhone encryption on an older Apple device.
The bill is expected to be introduced very soon, possibly even this week. While it would allow judges to compel tech companies to help hack encrypted devices, it does not reportedly spell out what would happen if they do not help — or how much assistance they must offer.
By failing to publicly support the draft legislation, the White House “all but ensures” that the current impasse over encryption will continue. The White House has allegedly reviewed the text and offered some feedback, but will have minimal public input.
President Barack Obama has played it neutral in Apple’s ongoing clash with the Justice Department. During an interview for the opening day of the South by Southwest Interactive festival last month, Obama argued against taking “an absolutist view” on the subject of national security versus encryption.
“If your argument is strong encryption no matter what, we can and should create black boxes, that I think does not strike the kind of balance that we have lived with for 200, 300 years, and it’s fetishizing our phones above every other value,” Obama said. “That can’t be the right answer.”
The POTUS also failed to mention Apple as one of the tech companies putting user privacy and security first while describing his new Cybersecurity National Action Plan in March.
Apple has long been vocal in appealing to the White House to protect individual privacy rights through strong encryption.