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As Apple and the FBI face off against each other over encryption, another national government is considering taking its own steps to deal with encrypted phones. A French member of parliament from the governing Socialist Party has proposed an amendment to a French law that would levy punitive fines on companies who do not cooperate with court orders to circumvent encryption on their platforms. This would require the companies to include a backdoor in order to avoid the fines. The fine would be up to €1 million, or nearly $1 million, for each case a company does not comply with a decryption order. The official reason for proposing this amendment is the fact that there are eight phones connected to terrorist attacks which cannot be searched by police due to encryption.

Yann Galut, the MP who proposed the amendment, defended his proposal stating, “We are faced with a legal vacuum when it comes to data encryption, and it’s blocking judicial investigations. Only money will force these extremely powerful companies like Apple and Google to comply. They are hiding behind a supposed privacy protection, but they’re quick to make commercial use of personal data that they’re collecting.” He also stated that the amendment would not affect the privacy of the general public, but only those under investigation. This claim ignores the fact that including backdoors necessarily makes a system less secure, and affects everyone who uses it.

With few exceptions, the tech industry has generally taken a stance in favor of strong encryption, and many companies have opposed attempts to mandate backdoors by law. Although not addressing this law specifically, Google CEO Sundar Pichai denounced backdoors at a recent tech conference in Paris. “We want to take a very strong stance against any form of backdoor whatsoever,” he stated, “When you create backdooors it leads to very, very bad consequences which always ends up harming users.”

How should companies who offer encrypted products respond to this proposal? Leave your comments below.

Max Michael

Senior Writer

I’m a technology reporter located near the Innovation District of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario.

  • Clairity

    So France wants to punish us for having good security, eh? I realize they want to avoid any repeats of the November attacks, but this isn’t going to do anything but weaken the security of their people, their freedoms, and possibly even their economy (I certainly wouldn’t want to do business in a country that financially punishes me for implementing good security).

  • webkilla

    meh – the french situation seems to be more of a “we have these 8 specific phones we need unlocked” not “we want all phones easily decrypted”

  • Casey

    It’d be hilarious if apple gave in to france for these cases just to see how france then does absolutely NOTHING with the information.

    Because it’s france.

  • Problem is they want Apple to have a method to bypass the encryption

    Apple very aggressively had a development team work at the goal of “make sure nobody but the intended user can access this data, including us”

    The 2 goals are in conflict.

  • lyra_asriel

    “He also stated that the amendment would not affect the privacy of the general public, but only those under investigation”

    Except that we’re already being spied on to the greatest extent technologically possible. How the hell can he possibly think for a second anyone believes this isn’t going to be abused?

    In an ideal world, the response to this shit would be software companies going Galt on a country – pulling out entirely. Let them have a taste of life without the services these companies provide and the people of the individual nation would quickly provide a lesson to other world governments about how to most quickly be ousted.

  • webkilla

    I get that

    If anything I’m actually a little surprised that Apple doesn’t just have some factory keys they can use to unlock phones – in case someone serves them a court order to open up a specific phone or something.

    Of course, the issue would be if those keys were universal for all phones – and not just on a phone-by-phone basis