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Apple-backed coalition opposes Burr-Feinstein encryption bill in open letter

A group of four tech industry associations — representing businesses like Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Google — have published an open letter opposing a draft bill by U.S. Senators Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein, which would make it possible for courts to order help bypassing encryption.

The letter expresses "deep concerns about well-intentioned but ultimately unworkable policies" mentioned in the bill, and opposes "actions that will create government-mandated security vulnerabilities." It's signed by Reform Government Surveillance, the Computer and Communications Industry Association, the Internet Infrastructure Coalition, and the Entertainment Software Association.

The groups claim that they "respond expeditiously" to legal and emergency data requests from governments, but that they also design strong encryption to protect from threats by both criminals and governments. Mandatory decryption support would allegedly "force companies to prioritize government access over other considerations," i.e. weaken encryption, which could in turn be exploited by hackers.

The letter also cautions that mandatory decryption could be adopted by other governments, and/or that Americans might simply turn to their foreign company of choice if they feel that U.S. corporations like Apple and Google can no longer provide secure data.

The Burr-Feinstein bill, the "Compliance with Court Orders Act of 2016," was introduced last week and would require businesses served with a court order to provide "intelligible information or data, or appropriate technical assistance to obtain such information or data" in cases involving a range of serious crimes. Since many encryption systems can't normally be cracked by their own creators, however, that would essentially force the creation of backdoors.