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Nanny State of the Week: New York plans to ban iPhones, other encrypted tech

By   /   January 25, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

A New York lawmaker has proposed a bill that would ban iPhones from being sold in the state, unless Apple provides special “back doors” that would allow law enforcement to spy on users.

That’s a double dose of the Nanny State: setting rules for what can be bought and sold, while giving the government an easier way to spy on residents’ everyday activities.

The bill is sponsored by State Assemblyman Matthew Titone, D-Staten Island, and it would mandate that iPhones and other cell phones sold in New York be “capable of being decrypted and unlocked.” The bill has support, perhaps unsurprisingly, from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance and other law enforcement groups in the state.

Image via Wiki Commons

TITONE: With his new proposal to ban the sales of encrypted cell phones in New York, state Assemblyman Matthew Titone is on the fast track to the Nanny State Hall of Fame.

According to U.S. News and World Report, “Vance reportedly recommended the bill to Titone,” and a member of Titone’s staff told Newsweek the bill was proposed by 62 New York district attorneys seeking the assistance of their legislators.”​

Apple’s newest iPhones come with default encryption settings and would be banned from the state by the legislation unless Apple created new software for phones sold in New York. Google has followed suit and offers data encryption as an option on some newer devices.

Those default settings help protect iPhone users from unwanted hacks — from malicious hackers, government spies or law enforcement agents.

If the bill passes, Apple would face fines of $2,500 for every device sold in New York.

“The proposed bill comes as lawmakers and Silicon Valley tech giants are figuring out how to come to a compromise on device encryption without handing over the keys to the government, or giving its law enforcement and intelligence agencies unfettered access,” reported ZDNet.com, a technology news site.

And it’s not just happening in New York.

A few days after Titone’s bill was introduced, California State Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Sacramento, introduced a similar bill to ban the sale of encrypted cell phones.

It’s again no surprise to learn that Cooper has a cozy relationship with law enforcement. Before becoming a state lawmaker, he worked for 30 years in the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, including a stint as the department’s top spokesman.

Cooper’s bill includes nearly identical language to Titone’s — it’s almost like law enforcement lobbyists might be asking their friends to introduce the same bill in multiple states — and would also impose a $2,500 fine for every encrypted device sold in the state.

Regular visitors to this space might recognize Titone’s name. The Staten Island Democrat is seemingly on the fast-track to the Nanny State Hall of Fame.

Last year, Titone was the lead sponsor on a bill that would have re-instituted New York City’s failed “soda ban” on a statewide level for New York residents under age 18.

READ MORE: New York’s soda ban could be back — but for kids only

The soda ban in New York City — pushed and approved by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2012, before being tossed by the state Supreme Court in 2013 — was rightfully mocked for its absurd attempt to control individuals’ decisions. Titone’s proposal would have affected only minors, but is still difficult to defend on constitutional grounds.

This new proposal, however, is far worse.

It would be bad enough for New York to propose banning iPhones because Titone believed they were increasing childhood obesity or harming Staten Islanders’ health — you can almost hear him shouting that kids should put down their cell phones and sodas, can’t you?

But the real motivation behind this latest Nanny State proposal is far worse. He wants to force Apple and other cell phone manufacturers to give the state unlimited access to New Yorkers’ most personal information and communications.

That’s not merely nannyism, its borderline authoritarianism.