richardburrNorth Carolina Senator Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is working on legislation that would penalize companies that don’t comply with court orders to unlock encrypted devices, according to The Wall Street Journal. The move comes a day after Apple announced that it would oppose an order to unlock the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone 5c.

The bill could reportedly be written in way that modifies the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which compelled communications companies to build their systems in a way that would allow them to comply with court orders.

Mr. Burr hasn’t finalized plans for how legislation would be designed, and several people familiar with the process said there hasn’t been an agreement among any other lawmakers to pursue criminal penalties. It’s also unclear whether Mr. Burr could marshal bipartisan support on such an issue during an election year that has divided Washington in recent months.

For the past several months, Burr has been pressuring technology companies to work closely with law enforcement to prevent encrypted devices and services from being used to plan and execute crimes, going as far as telling some that they needed to consider changing their business model. He’s also claimed that district attorneys have complained to him about encryption as they are “beginning to get to a situation where they can’t prosecute cases.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook has continually maintained that unlocking any device, or creating any type of backdoor, would weaken encryption across the board and allow both bad guys and good guys to access users’ personal data.

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Tags: privacy, Encryption

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