France Considers Punitive Fines To Compel Encryption Backdoors

Published: March 2, 2016 10:40 PM /


French Flag

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.

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