France Considers Anti-Encryption Amendment to Digital Republic Bill

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French Parliament is considering an anti-encryption amendment to its massive Digital Republic bill to provide easy access to digital communications by law enforcement. The bill and its 400 amendments will be debated this week as the French government seeks comprehensive regulation on everything from net neutrality to online research publication.

According to a report by the Daily Dot, Amendment CL92 would require hardware manufacturers to provide law enforcement with access to unencrypted communications when authorized by a judge. The amendment was proposed by 18 members of France’s Republican Party.

“France must take the lead by requiring equipment manufacturers to consider the imperative of access of police and gendarmes, under the supervision of a judge and only in the context of a judicial inquiry, to these materials,” according to a Google translation of the amendment’s summary statement. “The objective is to avoid that individual encryption systems will further delay the investigation.”

The measure is seen by some as a response to recent terrorist attacks in France, though it is not clear that any encrypted communications were used in the attacks or their planning stages. Unencrypted text messages between attackers signaled the start of the Nov. 13 attacks. France has been under a state of emergency for two months, and has faced criticism for its response to the attacks.

The Dutch government issued a statement earlier in January in support of encryption as a method of protecting Internet privacy and security too valuable to compromise for law enforcement access.

French Prime Minister Manual Valls said in December that he does not support suggestions to ban public Wi-Fi or the anonymity network Tor, or provide law enforcement with access codes for service providers.

The costs of data breaches and value of privacy to enterprises and consumers alike has motivated a push for more encryption on several fronts, from email to databases. As part of that push, French web host and cloud provider OVH became a platinum sponsor of the “Let’s Encrypt” SSL project just weeks ago.

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