California may face a potential ban on all encrypted smartphone devices.
Assembly member Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) introduced Bill 1680 on Jan. 20 to the state legislature.
According to Cooper, the bill was created in response to the high number of human trafficking cases in Sacramento and the difficulty officers faced when collecting case evidence.
If passed, the bill will force manufacturers to produce smartphones without encryption codes, making it easier for computer savvy people to obtain data and information.
“In 2014, the operating system on cellphones changed to make it inaccessible to law enforcement. So unless the owner of that phone had the passcode, law enforcement couldn’t even access it with a court order from a judge,” said Cooper.
Jenny Williamson, founder and CEO of Courage Worldwide, a non-profit organization for victims of human trafficking, acknowledged that the use of smartphone information could help convict traffickers and save victims from the trauma of testifying against them.
“The phone holds the evidence to her abuse, the phone holds the evidence of her being sold as a commodity and if our law enforcement partners, if our law enforcement teams have that evidence then maybe, just maybe we wouldn’t have to put her on the stand,” said Williamson.
While Cooper and Williamson believe in the potential benefits of the bill, members of the general public remain skeptical.
“If the law passes, I think it will have a negative affect because public perception is that the government will always watch us, such as it was stated in George Orwell’s 1984,” stated former criminal justice student Nick Fernandez.
In a recent press conference, Cooper addressed such concerns.
“Really, the big thing about this is it’s not the boogeyman, it’s not NSA, it’s not Edward Snowden.
Ninety-nine percent of the public will never have their phone searched with a court order. We’re talking folks that are involved in human trafficking. It is an issue right now,” said Cooper.
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