The anti-security proposal promoted by Senators Burr and Feinstein is “dead,” according to a Reuters report. The news agency spoke to sources within congressional offices, the administration, and the tech sector, who confirmed that the bill “likely will not be introduced this year and, even if it were, would stand no chance of advancing.”
The Burr-Feinstein proposal essentially sought to mandate that tech companies build less secure products so that law enforcement could more easily crack into our communications. The bill would require tech companies to ensure that they could provide the government with plain-text user data in response to a warrant—such as email messages, text messages, contacts, photos, browsing history, or anything else. This would derail a movement that’s been developing among tech companies to increasingly put users in control of their security by giving them the keys to lock their devices. We said at the time that the Burr-Feinstein plan was terrible for digital security, and security experts overwhelmingly agreed with us.
Thousands of EFF supporters spoke out to oppose the bill, and many others joined us in a campaign to pressure Obama to take a strong stance against encryption backdoors. That work paid off: according to Reuters reporting, congressional support has waned and the Obama administration’s decision not to endorse the bill was key to the proposal being scrapped for the year.
Make no mistake: those who seek to undermine our security won’t take today’s defeat lightly. They have many tactics, and the Burr-Feinstein bill was but one of them. Just recently, we’ve seen state-level bills attempting to ban encrypted tech products, attempts to push insecure technical standards, unofficial pressure on tech companies to undermine user security, lawsuits designed to force tech companies to defeat their own security, and now a strange and dangerous amendment to the federal rules of criminal procedure that seeks to give the government new avenues for hacking our computers. There’s also no guarantee the Burr-Feinstein bill won’t come back next year, perhaps with some tiny changes that attempt to paint the bill as a reasonable compromise without actually fixing the core problems.
The modern Crypto Wars are being fought on many fronts, but today is a win. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to everyone who spoke up against the Burr-Feinstein bill, and hope you’ll fight with us again in the next battle. Today is a great day to donate to EFF to ensure we’ve got the resources necessary to block whatever new attack on security appears on the horizon.