Earlier this week, Steptoe & Johnson, an International law firm reported that New York was considering criminalizing Encryption.
Nevada and Massachusetts require the use of encryption in certain circumstances. But New York is thinking about taking the opposite approach – making it a crime to use encryption in some situations. A bill (S. 714) introduced in the New York Senate on January 5 would prohibit the “criminal use of encryption.” While the intent appears to be to make it a crime for criminals to use encryption to conceal evidence, the bill’s awkward wording could be read to prohibit the use of encryption – such as by a communications company – that has the effect of concealing the identity of a criminal or evidence of a crime.
The Bill S714 (aka National Criminal Justice Commission Act) was introduced in Senate on March 2009 by Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) and reported by the committee in Jan 2010 but it never became a law. I quickly scanned through the bill (pdf) but couldn’t find any references to “encryption” (or “unencryption”). There is no other information available about this bill being re-introduced.
Though, there are enough evidences to support that this has been discussed multiple times since 2001 –
The technology of scrambling data and messages has become a crucial element of computer security for businesses and consumers alike. Officials of law enforcement and intelligence agencies have long warned lawmakers that they were unable to break the strongest encryption products, and that crimes eventually would be committed that might otherwise have been prevented.
and as Mark Rasch (attorney and technology expert) said in his 2003 post –
The new legislative proposal would be counterproductive. It could stigmatize encryption as a criminal tool. People will grow wary of using crypto, consequently vendors will become wary of building it in to products, and ultimately the nation will become less secure.
….we shouldn’t stop manufacturing locks just because criminals may use them to lock doors.