White House Won't Support Burr-Feinstein Bill Forcing Companies To Provide Technical Assistance To Encrypted Data

Picking up where the FBI left off against Apple, Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) are getting ready to introduce a bill that would force companies like Apple and Google to provide "technical assistance" to government authorities trying to access encrypted data on locked devices.

"We're still working on finalizing a discussion draft and as a result can’t comment on language in specific versions of the bill," Burr and Feinstein said in a joint statement, according to The Hill. "We’re still in the process of soliciting input from stakeholders and hope to have final language ready soon.”


Government agencies and technology firms are at odds over encryption and whether or not law enforcement officials should have backdoor access into electronic devices. The argument from the tech sector is that building backdoors into smartphones or being forced to aid officials with breaking into gadgets undermines the security and privacy of these devices, leaving consumers vulnerable to hackers.

On the flip side, those in favor of this type of legislation want to take away the ability of criminals to effectively hide behind encryption. The opposing views took center stage when the FBI sought and obtained a court order forcing Apple to provide technical assistance with breaking into an iPhone 5c model that belonged Syed Farook, one of the terrorists responsible for the San Bernardino shootings.

Apple fought the court order and the FBI withdrew its suit before a decision could be made. Had the matter played out in the court system, there would have been a legal precedent. In lieu of that, some lawmakers are now attempting to accomplish the same thing through a bill.

Citing unnamed source, Reuters says the White House is divided on the issue and opting not to offer public support. That's not a new stance—the White House did the same thing last year when it decided not to try and push through legislation that would require U.S. companies build a backdoor to access encrypted data.