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New York state considers bill mandating backdoors in smartphone encryption

A bill up for consideration by the New York state assembly would force Apple and other smartphone makers to ensure their products can be decrypted for the sake of law enforcement.

The bill was formally introduced by Assemblyman Matthew Titone last year, but was only referred to committee just last week, according to The Next Web. Language in the document proposes that any phone made as of Jan. 1 this year and sold or leased in the state "be capable of being decrypted and unlocked by its manufacturer or its operating system provider."

To ensure compliance, smartphone makers could be fined as much as $2,500 per device breaking the law.

The sort of encryption available in iOS 8/9 and more recent versions of Android may help privacy, the bill argues, but "severely hampers" law enforcement, since it can block access to evidence.

"Simply stated, passcode-protected devices render lawful court orders meaningless and encourage criminals to act with impunity," the bill suggests. It has yet to be voted on by the state assembly or senate.

Apple has vocally opposed any sort of weakened encryption, going so far as to hold the position in front of White House officials. The company's view has been that if it leaves deliberate gaps in its security, that will simply make it easier for hackers to gain access to people's devices and data.

Some government officials, such as FBI director James Comey, have claimed that Apple's position could potentially cost lives if it interferes in preventing acts like kidnapping or terrorism.