The US government invoked the All Writs Act in order to compel the assistance of smartphone manufacturers in unlocking devices pursuant to a search warrant. Orders from federal magistrate judges in Oakland and New York City require companies to bypass the lock screen on seized phones and enable law enforcement access.
EFF says the Secure Data Act starts to address the problem of backdoors by prohibiting any agency from “mandate[ing] that a manufacturer, developer, or seller of covered products design or alter the security functions in its product or service to allow the surveillance of any user of such product or service, or to allow the physical search of such product, by any agency.” The legislation only prohibits agencies from requiring a company to build a backdoor. The NSA can still do its best to convince companies to do so voluntarily.
The legislation also doesn’t change the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA.) CALEA, passed in 1994, is a law that forced telephone companies to redesign their network architectures to make it easier for law enforcement to wiretap telephone calls. In 2006, the D.C. Circuit upheld the FCC's reinterpretation of CALEA to also include facilities-based broadband Internet access and VoIP service, although it doesn't apply to cell phone manufacturers.
Today, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden introduced a bill to prohibit the government from mandating backdoors in hardware and software technologies. The legislation prohibits any federal agency from intentionally weakening consumer encryption standards.
The National Security Agency director, Mike Rogers, said that “backdoors” would not be harmful to privacy, would not fatally compromise encryption and would not ruin international markets for US technology products.
Rogers mounted an elaborate defense of Barack Obama’s evolving cybersecurity strategy in an appearance before an audience of cryptographers, tech company security officers and national security reporters at the New America Foundation in Washington. In an hour-long question-and-answer session, Rogers said a cyber-attack against Sony pictures by North Korea last year showed the urgency and difficulty of defending against potential cyber threats.
The Guardian reports that Apple has submitted a formal statement to the bill committee working on a new complex and controversial surveillance law in the U.K. The submission was just released, and Apple is staying on course when it comes to privacy, saying that government backdoors could be used by anyone and weaken the security of hundreds of millions of devices.
The Dutch government has released a statement in which it says that "it is currently not desirable to take restricting legal measures concerning the development, availability and use of encryption within the Netherlands". It also notes that forcing companies to add backdoors to their products and services would have "undesirable consequences for the security of communicated and stored information," since "digital systems can become vulnerable to criminals, terrorists and foreign intelligence services".