French Bill Would Fine Tech Companies For Refusing To Divulge Encrypted Info In Terrorism Cases

In the wake of Apple's fight with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) over certain iPhone security features, French parliament officials voted to penalize smartphone makers that refuse to hand over encrypted data in cases involving terrorism. The legislation is being introduced as an amendment to a penal reform bill.

This is not something that is favored by the government. Instead, it was drafted by rightwing opposition. Though it ultimately passed a vote in France's lower parliament, it must also pass subsequent votes in the National Assembly and Senate before it becomes law. That's going to be tough to do, considering the bill's harsh penalties.

National Assembly

As currently drafted, a private company like Apple that refuses to hand over encrypted data to authorities would face up to five years in jail and a €350,000 (around $385,400 in U.S. currency) fine. Lesser penalties would apply to telecoms, though their executives would still face up to two years in prison.

The controversial bill comes a day after numerous technology companies filed amicus briefs on Apple's behalf. Companies like Microsoft, Google, and Facebook all share Apple's concern over user privacy and the dangerous precedent it would set if Apple is ultimately forced to build a backdoor into its iPhone software.

Apple has been steadfast in its determination not to crack its own security schemes. The FBI wants Apple's assistance in peeking into an iPhone 5c model that belonged to one of the San Bernardino shooters, but Apple says the only way it knows to do that is by creating a weakened version of iOS, one that could be leaked out and leave hundreds of millions of iPhones vulnerable.