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Ron Wyden Introduces Bill To Ban FBI 'Backdoors' In Tech Products 109

An anonymous reader sends this report from The Verge: Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) is trying to proactively block FBI head James Comey's request for new rules that make tapping into devices easier. The Secure Data Act would ban agencies from making manufacturers alter their products to allow easier surveillance or search, something Comey has said is necessary as encryption becomes more common and more sophisticated. "Strong encryption and sound computer security is the best way to keep Americans' data safe from hackers and foreign threats," said Wyden in a statement. "It is the best way to protect our constitutional rights at a time when a person's whole life can often be found on his or her smartphone."
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Ron Wyden Introduces Bill To Ban FBI 'Backdoors' In Tech Products

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  • This is bothersome (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Friday December 05, 2014 @10:41AM (#48530265) Journal
    When NSA was set up, it was to SPY on FOREIGN powers, while securing our own equipment. Now, it is bothersome that backdoors are being built into personal level equipment.
    • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <{gro.hsikcah} {ta} {todhsals-muiriled}> on Friday December 05, 2014 @10:46AM (#48530305)

      That's true as far as the NSA goes, but this is about the FBI, which was set up from the beginning to spy on Americans.

      • by thedonger ( 1317951 ) on Friday December 05, 2014 @11:29AM (#48530605)
        Maybe the question we should ask is, How did we reach a point where we need a bill to prevent the government from forcing its will on manufacturers?
      • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Friday December 05, 2014 @12:45PM (#48531309)

        Actually, the FBI was originally formed (and with good reason, I might want to add) to act as a federal (as compared to local) police force, with the duty to enforce federal law, especially where local forces cannot due to limits in their jurisdiction. It was supposed to close a loophole where a criminal can simply move to another state to escape prosecution.

        Only with Hoover it really started to suck.

        • So that's where the company's name comes from...

        • Only with Hoover it really started to suck.

          That's true, the pre-Hoover FBI was a model of how a government agency should be: it solved every case before it, never harassed or hurt the innocent, was honest, scrupulous, efficient, dependable...

          Then J. Edgar Hoover became its founding Director and it all went to hell...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Huh. I can't really think of any other governments int he past century that have been known to massively spy on and intimidate their entire population - even to the point of being afraid to express themselves - can you? Hmm...

      Also, they didn't give a shit about the constitution; why the fuck would they give a shit about another law?

      • by tiberus ( 258517 )
        Uh, China.
        • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

          Now what do you think will happen to technology exports once laws pass that require the implementation of back doors in supposedly secure hardware and software. It will be no problem at all to force class action law suites in foreign countries to block the importation of these products where they infringe upon their constitutional rights.

        • Uh, China.

          (d)uh.... /sarcasm

    • The NSA was always supposed to protect the status quo against people and organizations that would threaten it.

      It still does that.

      What changed is that the people and organizations that might want to overthrow government are no longer limited to people and organizations abroad.

    • This is something Eben Moglen discusses in his Freedom in the Cloud [softwarefreedom.org] talks, which I strongly recommend.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...because I can think of one that's going to do it nomatter WHAT the law says...

  • by Grog6 ( 85859 ) on Friday December 05, 2014 @10:45AM (#48530303)

    "You know, that's a nice life you have; drop the bill and none of your illegal activities come out."

    All congresscritters are criminals, so this won't take long to kill. :(

    You can't vote out the Gestapo.

    • Of course you can. Worst case scenario you have to cast a lot of lead ballots, starting with the upper management and working your way down.

    • You derped all over yourself there. Your claim doesn't even survive the headline, you don't need to have read the summary. ;)

  • by jodido ( 1052890 ) on Friday December 05, 2014 @10:49AM (#48530329)
    Wyden's proposal says agencies shouldn't be allowed to "make" manufacturers put in a back door. How about "convincing"? All big corporations are on the same side as the "agencies"--and the US Senate, for that matter.
    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Friday December 05, 2014 @11:12AM (#48530469)

      All big corporations are on the same side as the "agencies"

      Not on this issue. Corporations are happy to help if it boosts their profits, or at least doesn't hurt them. But once these backdoors went public, the backlash has meant fewer sales for American tech. That hurts profits. If this bill fails, as is likely, more and more people will buy non-American tech, from countries they feel are more trustworthy, like China.

      • Not to mention that an FBI backdoor might be exploited by a hacker and then this company's tech products will look horribly inferior to their competitor who didn't put in the back doors.

    • You're reading something into the layman's explanation that isn't in the bill. They aren't allowed to do it with a different word, either.

      Laws aren't that flexible. People make the mistake of thinking so because they don't realize that when lawyers are arguing about the meaning of a word, it is a technical jargon word that laypeople don't understand. A law never means a different thing just based on what word you use to describe your behavior.

  • Back doors are not a secret!
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Back doors are not a secret!

      Yeah, but you're giving away our best tricks!

  • by chitselb ( 25940 ) on Friday December 05, 2014 @11:03AM (#48530403) Homepage
    Phil Zimmermann's PGP already put crypto in the hands of the masses. It was a little cumbersome to use, even back in the '90s, but it's there. Anybody who wants good crypto, even on their phone, can probably find it and set it up. That group especially includes what I will call dedicated professional terrorists. FBI tapping into vanilla off-the-shelf iPhones will not catch them. This bill is about the common tech carried by the common man.
  • Why only FBI? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Trachman ( 3499895 ) on Friday December 05, 2014 @11:04AM (#48530413) Journal

    All of this would not be necessary, if existing laws would be enforced the way they were intended to. What is here not to understand " ... secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects".

    The moment you start slicing and dicing and qualifying, the next moment another interpretation will be drafted that allows to bypass any new law.

    The truth is people were spied all the times, but when it became easier to do so due to the technologies and the scale of spying became difficult to hide, then the new laws were carved out, "while the freedoms are protected".

    Key lesson: calling the the laws in a manner opposite to what it does.
        Patriot act is not patriotic.
        Affordable care is not affordable to most of the working people.
        FBI backdoor ban, will put more resources on another secret agency which is not banned.

    Why FBI, why DHS, why not all of them?

    • Re:Why only FBI? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Meneth ( 872868 ) on Friday December 05, 2014 @11:13AM (#48530483)

      Actually, the bill text [senate.gov] says "no agency may mandate...", so it ought to cover the DHS and NSA as well.

      However, since most (all?) government-induced vulnerabilities so far have been "suggested", rather than "mandated", I'm unsure how effective this bill would be.

      • It will be effective for Government and corporations to sell their wares. No we don't do that anymore our responsible government has made it illegal.
    • All of this would not be necessary, if existing laws would be enforced the way they were intended to. What is here not to understand " ... secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects".

      The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

      The FBI's problem is that, soon, even warrants won't be sufficient to pry open the encryption protecting consumer level devices.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Actually, since the devices are made in China, there will be backdoors aplenty... but not backdoors accessible to the FBI.

      • The FBI's problem is that, soon, even warrants won't be sufficient to pry open the encryption protecting consumer level devices.

        Yep, that's the FBI's problem. Tough cookies. If FBI agents want an easy job, they should become software developers or managers or something. Law enforcement has these restrictions put upon them to make it difficult. Not because we support crime, but because it's the agents are in a position of power and need to be kept under control.

      • Warrants are already insufficient to pry open safes and encrypted drives.

        The warrant gets them the safe or encrypted drive. Opening it? That is what subpoenas are for.

        If they don't have a case, they don't really need the data. If they have a case, they can get the data. Nothing changes for cases where they are following the law and getting warrants.

        This only inconveniences dragnet searches that are probably illegal anyways, or would be if judges had the courage to allow the victim standing to challenge.

    • All of this would not be necessary, if existing laws would be enforced the way they were intended to. What is here not to understand " ... secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects".

      The problem is that they cease to be your papers and effects if you give them to someone else. That letter you sent to your girlfriend - she's free to pass it on to the police or to post it on imagur if she likes. That request you sent to Comcast for a route to www.alquaeda.ir - they are free to give it to the NSA if they like.

      Generally, one imagines that your girlfriend is not going to consent to a FBI request for all you past communications, because her privacy is at risk, too. But what motivates Time

    • All of this would not be necessary, if existing laws would be enforced the way they were intended to. What is here not to understand " ... secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects".

      The biggest problem with the Bill of Rights (and almost every other law intended to restrict governmental employees) is that it doesn't include any civil or criminal penalties. Think about it.

      Read through the code of any state or the federal government and you'll see stuff like this (from the TN code, random clicking):

      56-26-128. Violations -- Penalty.

      Any person, firm, partnership or corporation willfully violating any provision of 56-26-125 or 56-26-126 shall be liable for the civil penal

  • by Stan92057 ( 737634 ) on Friday December 05, 2014 @11:25AM (#48530579)
    It will never pass and not for the reasons many here might think. Other lawmakers will try to put other stuff/attachments in the bill that has zero to do with the bill. for example fund spy cameras for the police or fund something that will never pass, poisoning the bill. This is how all good bills are destroyed and making those who voted against the bill look like the evil doers when in fact they are voting against the bill because it contains SHIT.
    • It isn't intended to pass.

      If he really gave a rat's ass about it, he wouldn't have waited till he was in a lame duck Senate to propose this.

      This is all about getting some good press for himself and possibly the Dems in general, and bad press for the Reps coming in next month who'll actually have to vote on this bill. "See?!? WE wanted to fix this horrible thing, but those EEEEVVIIILLL Republicans stopped us!!!!!!"

      Be a terrible shame if there were enough Tea Party types (or sympathizers, at least) in th

      • If he really gave a rat's ass about it, he wouldn't have waited till he was in a lame duck Senate to propose this.

        This, in spades.

        If he really gave a rat's ass, he wouldn't have sat back before the NSA/Snowden revelations saying "you don't know the half of it". He was on the Senate committee that oversees such things and was fully briefed on it, and did nothing to stop it.

        This is all about getting some good press for himself and possibly the Dems in general,

        That's what Wyden is all about. I live in his state. I've seen him work and how he runs campaigns.

      • by swb ( 14022 )

        If he really gave a rat's ass about it, he wouldn't have waited till he was in a lame duck Senate to propose this.

        Lame duck sessions are the ideal time to get controversial bills passed. Lame ducks can vote on anything they want without giving a shit about constituents, contributions, or their caucus. They can vote their conscience, such as it is, without any concerns of political liability. He might get enough lame duck support to create a groundswell of support plus the public PR necessary to sway returning legislators who were otherwise on the fence or even opposed.

        He's also taking advantage of the (at least as o

        • Lame duck sessions are the ideal time to get controversial bills passed. Lame ducks can vote on anything they want without giving a shit about constituents, contributions, or their caucus.

          This applies only to those who were not re-elected to congress. All the rest -- that majority -- still have to worry about the next re-election bid.

      • This hits the nail on the head.

        Although I do look forward to seeing which politicians vote against it -- in the unlikely event that it comes to a vote, that is.

      • by linuxguy ( 98493 )

        If he really gave a rat's ass about it, he wouldn't have waited till he was in a lame duck Senate to propose this.

        Ron Wyden isn't going anywhere anytime soon. He is in office until 2016!

        This is all about getting some good press for himself and possibly the Dems in general, and bad press for the Reps coming in next month who'll actually have to vote on this bill. "See?!? WE wanted to fix this horrible thing, but those EEEEVVIIILLL Republicans stopped us!!!!!!"

        Honest question. Why would Republicans not support this bill?

        Be a terrible shame if there were enough Tea Party types (or sympathizers, at least) in the Senate next year to actually approve this bill and make it law....

        Last time I checked, tea partiers were all Republicans.

        • Ron Wyden isn't going anywhere anytime soon. He is in office until 2016!

          No, but the Senate that he's asking to vote on this bill will disappear in about two weeks, and never be seen again.

          If Wyden really wanted the bill made into law, he'd have waited till the new Congress was in session. Or even done it four years ago when the House and Senate were both controlled by Dems.

          Honest question. Why would Republicans not support this bill?

          Because the Dems proposed it?

          Seriously, if such a bill had bipartisan

        • Honest question. Why would Republicans not support this bill?

          Good question. And completely unanswerable based solely on the description of the bill here on /.. (How DO you properly end a sentence that ends with '/.'?)

          But if you read the bill [senate.gov] (pdf), you might find some clues. For example:

          (a) IN GENERAL. -- Except as provided in subsection (b), no agency may mandate 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

          • by Anonymous Coward

            All this NSA stuff that got leaked -- he knew it before it got leaked. He's on the committee that has regulatory oversight to that agency. Did he do anything when he found out what they were doing? No.

            Wow are you wrong. Seriously, overwhelming, jaw-droppingly-stupidly wrong.

            With NSA revelations, Sen. Ron Wyden’s vague privacy warnings finally become clear [washingtonpost.com]

            It was one of the strangest personal crusades on Capitol Hill: For years, Sen. Ron Wyden said he was worried that intelligence agencies were violati

            • Wow are you wrong. Seriously, overwhelming, jaw-droppingly-stupidly wrong.

              And then you provide a quote that proves I am right. Thanks.

              It was one of the strangest personal crusades on Capitol Hill: For years, Sen. Ron Wyden said he was worried that intelligence agencies were violating Americans' privacy. But he couldn't say how. That was a secret.

              He wasn't "worried" they were, he KNEW they were. He knew and did nothing but issue "vague warnings". It was a SEEcret, you see. And as a US Senator with a mandate to serve the public who elected him, he didn't.

              But Wyden (D-Ore.) was bound by secrecy rules, unable to reveal what he knew.

              Those "secrecy rules" would not prevent him from writing exactly the bill he's being lauded for writing now. It would not have prevented him from writing a bill to prohibit what was happening. It would not have prevented him from doing a l

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It will fail because he's a freedom hating democrat!

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