Bipartisan Bill to Strengthen Encryption Laws Introduced in the House

Reps. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., and Nancy Mace, R-S.C., led a bipartisan group of legislators in reintroducing the Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications (ENCRYPT) Act.

The legislation, which was first introduced in 2016, would supersede state and local government encryption laws to ensure a uniform, national policy for the interstate issue of encryption technology.

“Having a patchwork of 50 different mandatory state-level encryption standards creates cyber vulnerabilities, threatens individual privacy, and undermines the competitiveness of American innovators,” said Rep. Lieu. “Strong encryption standards are vital to protecting our nation’s security and Americans’ privacy – and cybersecurity is a national issue that requires a national response. Our legislation is a crucial step toward securing strong encryption for all Americans.”

Specifically, the bill bars states from mandating or requesting that companies “design or alter the security functions in its product or service to allow the surveillance of any user,” “allow the physical search of such product,” or “have the ability to decrypt or otherwise render intelligible information that is encrypted.”

The bill was initially introduced in response to a dispute between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Apple in which the bureau sought to have the technology company provide access to the locked cellphone of a suspect in the 2015 San Bernardino, Calif., mass shooting. Lieu has reintroduced the legislation each year since 2016.

“From Social Security numbers to health information, Americans entrust their private data to countless companies and government agencies every single day,” said Rep. Mace. “But many businesses are being pushed by law enforcement to intentionally weaken their security, creating deliberate backdoors in their software, putting millions of Americans’ personal information at risk. The ENCRYPT Act ensures every American business, non-profit, and government agency can do all they can to protect our citizens’ vital information.”

The legislation is also sponsored by Reps. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., and Anna Eshoo, D-Calif. The bill does not appear to have companion legislation in the Senate. The ENCRYPT Act is also endorsed by the Open Technology Institute, the App Association, and Engine.

“Keeping people’s information secure must be a priority for Congress. Without a national encryption policy, we cannot effectively protect personal data, leaving people susceptible to attacks from bad actors,” said Rep. DelBene. “This legislation unifies our encryption methods to provide security to the American people while ensuring that advances in technology can continue to grow.”

Kate Polit
About Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs