New York state introduces bill to ban sale of encrypted smartphones

This is troublesome for many reasons. Here’s a link to the bill. Click “View Bill Text” to see the bill itself.

From the bill:

ANY SMARTPHONE THAT IS MANUFACTURED ON OR AFTER JANUARY FIRST, TWO THOUSAND SIXTEEN, AND SOLD OR LEASED IN NEW YORK, SHALL BE CAPABLE OF BEING DECRYPTED AND UNLOCKED BY ITS MANUFACTURER OR ITS OPERATING SYSTEM PROVIDER.

And:

THE SALE OR LEASE IN NEW YORK OF A SMARTPHONE MANUFACTURED ON OR AFTER JANUARY FIRST, TWO THOUSAND SIXTEEN THAT IS NOT CAPABLE OF BEING DECRYPTED AND UNLOCKED BY ITS MANUFACTURER OR ITS OPERATING SYSTEM PROVIDER SHALL SUBJECT THE SELLER OR LESSOR TO A CIVIL PENALTY OF TWO THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS FOR EACH SMARTPHONE SOLD OR LEASED IF IT IS DEMONSTRATED THAT THE SELLER OR LESSOR OF THE SMARTPHONE KNEW AT THE TIME OF THE SALE OR LEASE THAT THE SMARTPHONE WAS NOT CAPABLE OF BEING DECRYPTED AND UNLOCKED BY ITS MANUFACTURER OR ITS OPERATING SYSTEM PROVIDER. NO SELLER OR LESSOR WHO PAYS THE CIVIL PENALTY MAY PASS ANY PORTION OF THAT PENALTY ON TO ANY PURCHASER OF SMARTPHONES BY RAISING THE SALES OR LEASE PRICE OF SMARTPHONES.

First, if passed, the bill will apply retroactively. It refers to phones manufactured on or after January 1, 2016, also known as two weeks ago. This means the mere threat of this law will have a chilling effect on iPhone sales. If someone sells an iPhone built this year, they are subject to massive fines ($2500 per phone) on the off chance that the bill passes.

And if, by some miracle, this bill passes, it will be a point of leverage for the forces that want to force a decrypting capability into all smartphones.

This is outrageous.



  • Martin Johnson

    More than that, it would effectively be a nationwide change. The encryption built into iPhones is at the operating system level. Apple isn’t going to make a special NY version of iOS with crippled encryption. If this passes and holds up to a legal challenge then Apple/Google et al would effectively have to cripple the encryption in their OSes for all customers, not just those in NY. Even if this passes I can’t imagine it would survive a legal challenge at the Supreme Court.

    • or stop selling iphones in NY until they get their heads out of their asses.

      • Jakelson

        yes. this.

    • Sigivald

      Well, things sold in California need to meet CARB requirements and Prop. 65 labeling, which has not caused the Supreme Court to say “they can’t do that because it’s awkward”.

      Like Kyron said, the most likely result is for Apple to stop selling them in NY, and make people go to NJ or half-shady internet reshippers for them.

      • Lascurettes

        Apples and oranges. Not only is the CA Prop 65 only a warning, not a prohibition; but the purchase of a phone is a personal decision. I prefer the phone that has no back door bypass of security.

      • Chris Myers

        Moron, you do realize the majority of New York is nowhere near NJ, right? Please tell you realize that for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th largest cities in the state that NJ is 7, 6 & 3 hours away by car, 9 hours by train and an hour by plane?

        You do get that right? That outside of NYC the second largest county is as close to Indiana as they are to New York City?

        • Sam O

          Rude person, you do realize that that has nothing to do with the spirit of the comment?

        • Craig Jacobs

          A: Who cares. B: If it comes to pass and you don’t like it then talk to the assholes you elected to represent you.

        • Bart

          People have this thing called the internet where they can order directly from Apple and it will be delivered to them. Also, something else you probably don’t know about, we have these things called cars with a feature called a wheel. It makes it possible to travel for hours without your legs getting all achy. You should look into it.

      • Bart

        Amazon will find a way to sell it, and probably tax free. People will simply go to the next state. iPhones sales will INCREASE if they do try to legislate stupidity. This is like forcing the Amish to regulate wall street.

    • Stirlol

      Biggest beneficiaries, New Jersey phone sellers!

    • JohnDoey

      No, Apple is not going to put a backdoor in the encryption that their customers use. They would stop selling iPhones in NYC first, and New York residents can buy their phones in New Jersey or Connecticut or Canada, which are all a short drive away for every New York resident. Same as people in New York buy their handguns out of state.

      When you say “cripple the encryption” you mean “remove the encryption.” There is no such thing as crippled encryption. Something is either encrypted or not. It cannot be partially encrypted. Same as you can either be dead or not, not partially dead.

      • EmptyJay

        Sort-of pregnant!

      • Stephan Müller

        I agree with your first statement, but the encryption itself wouldn’t be crippled. The encryption would stay the same. It would just be easier to obtain the key since Apple would have to keep a copy on their servers. Security as a whole would be weakened.

        • Will

          Yeah, that’s called “crippled encryption”.

        • Once the backdoor is figured out (which is a “when” not an “if”) the encryption may as well be non-existent. And by then, the so-called “bad guys” will have moved on to something else that suits their encryption needs.

        • Pete Austin

          If Apple adds this backdoor, every major government in the world will insist on getting details. It will not stay secret for long.

    • sir1963nz

      Accidentally leak the backdoor to China , sit back with a box of popcorn and watch the fallout when US corporations find they have been “hacked”

  • If they introduced a bill like this for guns it would probably save more lives.

    • DanielSw

      No, it wouldn’t. An armed citizenry would be and are the best life savers.

      • You can’t say “No, it wouldn’t” for certain without knowing how many people have died as a result of not be able to decrypt a phone. I don’t believe that number would be as high as the number of people who were killed by guns in America, which was 13,352 in 2015 alone.

        • orc4hire

          How do you decrypt a gun?

          • sir1963nz

            A simple “encryption” is to have the gun (trigger locked), the magazine(empty), the bullets all to be locked away separately with differing complex keys.

          • orc4hire

            That’s not encryption, that’s just inconvenience. Any compatible magazines and bullets would work with the gun, not just those particular magazines and bullets.

            But if the police and politician’s bodyguards want to lead the way and start doing that, I’d take notice and be impressed.

          • sir1963nz
            1. You need the correct Key(s)
            2. You need to use those keys to get access to the various parts.

            Encryption is just a digital lock/key.

            And yes, we have a system where by you have one physical key to open a drawer, put study in it, when the drawer is closed the items drop into a different locked area. So you have 1 key that anyone can use to put stuff in there and a different key to retrieve the items. Its good for after hours drop offs for student papers needing to be marked.

            In NZ, since 1949 there have been 29 people shot by police. The USA averages about 400 a year, almost 1000 times as many over the same period. Or by head of population the US kills 10 times as many of its citizens as NZers do.

            You have every little respect for life in the US.

          • orc4hire

            That’s right, we do. Crime rates across the board, with or without guns, are higher in the US than in New Zealand. We’ll kill someone over a parking space.

            Tell me, though, how many years have you lived in the US? And what does any of this have to do with iPhone encryption? (And, BTW, you’re not going to convince me that the police in NZ walk around with pistols, magazines, and ammunition locked in three separate containers.)

          • sir1963nz

            Police in NZ do not carry arms, most have a locked box in their car.

            Given we expect police to go into hazardous situations having access to arms the way nz does is acceptable. However citizens are NOT permitted to carry weapons for self defence, the accepted solution is to leave. Given the murder rate of 1/10 of the US by population it seems a better strategy.

          • orc4hire

            You’re confusing cause and effect. The murder rate isn’t lower because the police keep their guns locked in their cars; the police keep their guns locked in their cars because New Zealand is a tiny, tiny country in the middle of nowhere, with about the population of Kentucky, is much more ethnically and economically homogenous than the United States, and where there is relatively little crime. The United States in immensely more populous, diverse, and socially unequal. The entire population of New Zealand is only twice the size of the PRISON population of the United States.

            Social policies, in other words, that work in New Zealand have about as much relevance to what would work in the United States as, well, smartphone encryption does to gun control. You’re comparing apples to motorhomes, and frankly it’s none of your business what kind of laws we have here in the States anyway.

          • sir1963nz

            NZ is highly ethnically diverse. Per head of population,we have the 2nd highest prison numbers (after the USA). We don’t have the death penalty, we don’t have the high punitive system the US does, but most importantly we respect life, we do not believe you are entitled to kill anyone else. There are no stand your ground laws or any other sort of stupidity. As for it being my business, the USA keeps forcing its view onto the rest of the world, and the US is highly hypocritical. The US was the biggest supplier of money and arms to the IRA, the US has funded and armed many terrorists groups around the world because they disliked the installed government more. The US wants to dictate policy in other countries, it should sort some of its own stuff out first. The US is NOT number 1 in any metric except military spending where they make up about 50% of the entire worlds spending. But when it comes to Health, Welfare, Education, freedom of the press, Democracy, crime, the US is often not even in the top 10. The US will soon try and force the rest of the world to not have encryption on phones because they will claim criminals will import phones from other countries to stop the NSA and it ilk from spying.

          • So to carry this logic to an admittedly absurd level, until you want to make a call or send an email from your phone, you have to take the battery out of the phone and lock the battery in one box, then put the phone in a different box, and the SIM in a third box, each box having separate 5 or 6 number combination locks, and for good measure, each box is stored in a different room of the house. Let’s see how that works when a fire breaks out, or someone breaks into the home and you need to call the police or fire brigade.

            These analogies don’t really seem line up when transferred from a mechanical device (firearm) to an electronic device (smartphone), although requiring people to pass a background check and get a license before they can carry their phone in public, as well as charge them with a crime of they pull it out in said public does seem a bit of an intriguing way to stop some of the idiots blindly stepping into a busy motorway while head-down and texting.

      • matthewmaurice

        I think the tragedy of Chris Kyle pretty much sums up the fallacy of that concept in a nutshell.

      • chas_m

        And yet you will be unable to produce even a single study that backs up this flatly-false claim of yours when challenged. Hint: FBI disagrees with you.

      • sir1963nz

        Weird, if that were true the USA would not have year after year after year the WORST record for school shootings. Me I kind of like it that my kids were able to walk home after school, we can all go out walking at night, go to the movies, coffee shop without needing a gun to feel safe.

    • Sigivald

      What would “a bill like this for guns” even look like or mean?

      A gun where the government can see its contents on request with a warrant?

      That’s “every gun”, already.

      • It would look like a $2500 fine for selling a gun without following the rules. Of course, we’d have start with better rules.

        • Sigivald

          You want to replace the existing felony penalties (or year misdemeanor and $6k fine here in Oregon on top of Federal provisions) with a $2,500 fine?

          I’m pretty sure the gun-enthusiast community would think that’s too lenient on the black market.

          • You win. You know more about gun laws than me. I didn’t mean to say that harsher penalties should be replaced with a simple $2500 fine. I only meant to suggest that legislators should spend more energy keeping guns off the street than they spend keeping iPhones off the street.

          • orc4hire

            Have you looked at New York’s gun laws? Compare their anti-gun laws to their anti-phone laws sometime. Hint: You can be arrested, charged with a felony, and sent to jail for up to 7 years for possession of an empty magazine, with no bullets or gun anywhere to be found. Just the magazine.

          • Bart

            You’re ignoring the very famous existing loop holes like gun shows. Gun freaks tend to burst blood vessels when there is any talk of actually adding any actual rules.

  • DanielSw

    This is horseshit. It will never pass.

    • chas_m

      Have you been in America long?

  • Just thinking here: The bill specifically says “smartphone”. Could Apple sell the iPhone without the phone capabilities? This, in effect, would turn it into a small tablet (iPod). Sell it through the carriers (or an Apple MVNO) w/ a decent data plan, allowing for VOIP (FaceTime, Skype, etc.) to replace the “phone” portion. Carriers won’t mind because they don’t make money on voice now anyway (who doesn’t have unlimited talk?).

    • That’s essentially an iPod touch.

      • Right, but it would come with a data plan like a tablet. Makes me wonder why Apple doesn’t move in this direction anyway…

        • Like they do with the cellular iPads. I could see that. Carriers might have a problem with it, tho.

        • Bart

          You still don’t get it. At all. Since the ORIGINAL iPod touch, you could do this. It’s SIMPLE. You just need a ‘hotspot’.

          • Bart, I’m fully aware of the iPod Touch capabilities to operate like a phone off of a hotspot or wi-fi. But it has never come with a data/LTE plan. Which was my point. This eliminates the need for a second device. And Apple could still sell a device with the same functions as the iPhone through carriers w/o breaking this new law.

            Yes, if someone wants to do this now with an iPod Touch, they can… but you still need a second device for that LTE.

            Marcintosh, I wonder the same thing. But if it’s between the carriers selling a 5-inch tablet (iPod) with a data plan or nothing, I doubt they’d choose nothing.

  • Merckel

    While they’re at it, make it illegal for lawmakers with IQs below 80 to hold office and watch government shrink.

    • llahnoraa

      More likely this: I think it’s illegal for politicians with IQs below 80 to hold office and watch government shrink.

    • Sigivald

      Don’t confuse intelligence and wisdom.

  • Jakelson

    If this passes, I wouldn’t doubt that Apple ceases to sell iPhones in the state of NY. Tim Cook is pretty adamant about no back doors, and New York should figure that out. I can’t see how people could not blame their state government for having to go to a different state in order to by the best phone on the market.

    • lucascott

      after all his talk if he gave into this folks would riot. Like storm HQ riot.

      • chas_m

        You’re correct they would riot, but not at Apple HQ: the legislative bodies of NY state, much more likely (and correctly: people generally aren’t as stupid as the politicians they elect, though why this happens remains something of a mystery).

  • New Yorkers can officially support, oppose, or track the legislation using the “aye/nay” widget on that bill page.

    ZDNet covered the capability in the follow up here: http://www.zdnet.com/article/new-york-to-ban-encrypted-iphone-android-devices-what-you-can-do/

  • Kai Cherry

    And this literally solves nothing. BTW, Apple is already hip to this and I’m pretty sure, but not certain, changes will be coming future-forward to allow devs an easy way to do per-app encryption-at-rest stuff. Forward-thinking app devs working in vertical markets already have options such as storing sensitive data in a mobile db like Realm that requires users to authenticate.

    I expect Apple to facilitate some sort of stronger per-app scheme as a response to this stuff as a way to “comply” but still allow for some level of privacy protection.

    Moreover, these proposals are pointless. Anyone that doesn’t want their stuff read will simply use another solution that has app-based encryption anyway. Unlock the phone, the “secrets” are secured independently. It’s all just silliness really.

    -K

  • lucascott

    IF this passes the first thing Apple will do stop selling or servicing iPhones in New York (cause that could be seen as a sale). Second thing they will do is file a complaint, sue if necessary, over the issue of back dating the fines. The notion that folks can be held responsible for something that wasn’t law yet is just absurd.

    And then they will wait for the public to go ape shit over having to go out of state to get their phones (especially if selling online and shipping into the state is included in the law)

  • JohnDoey

    I don’t see how this law can last, because it would force everyone involved to break many other laws. For example, your doctor is required to keep your digital health records private. They can’t use a device that is not secure to keep those records. If I know that my doctor is using an iPhone or iPad or similar device that complies with this New York anti-encryption law, I can sue his pants off for breaking the health care digital privacy laws.

    The thing that lawmakers don’t understand is that anything that you do to enable the FBI or NSA or NYPD to hack into a cell phone also enables every other hacker in the world to hack into that cell phone. So not only do you expose every citizen to hackers who work for the Chinese government, you also expose every FBI agent or NSA agent or NYPD officer to being hacked, and their locations and private data being public.

    What Apple needs to do is offer special test iPhones with encryption backdoors to the New York lawmakers who made this bill, and ask them to carry them around for a few months. Then, when we can see all of their photos online and we know about all of their affairs, we can ask them if they want a real iPhone back or if they want to keep the compromised one.

    The good news is that politically, the people are moving on from this kind of clueless politician.

  • Eric Swinson

    Time to open up a cash and carry phone store in Jersey

  • sir1963nz

    After careful consideration the phone makers got together and decided they WOULD put in a back door and supply the government the key. This backdoor and key is the same one used in China, Russia, North Korea, UK, Germany, Mexico, New Zealand, etc etc etc. AND the OS would disable any Apps that used their own encryption.

    There, problem fixed.

    • Bart

      LOL, the dumb pipe has no key. Educate yourself before commenting.

  • ra_phi

    Maybe this will at least have the side-effect of preventing companies from selling us unjailbreakable devices.

    • Bart

      Plenty of Android phones out there with no security to begin with for you to go with. Help yourself…