Why Sacramento Wants To Ban Smartphone Encryption

Did you know that over 20 million people a year are victims of human trafficking? That?EU?s according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.

What if banning smartphone encryption could stem the rising tide of human trafficking, a form of modern-day slavery from which perpetrators force victims to engage in commercial labor services or sex acts against their will?

Sacramento County Assembly member Jim Cooper just introduced a bill, AB 1681, that sets the stage for law enforcement to investigate and prosecute suspected criminals and organizations committing serious crimes like human trafficking. And, it involves banning smartphone encryption.

Thwarting Criminal Investigation

Smartphone manufacturers in 2014 started rolling out new operating systems for mobile devices. The new operating systems use what's called full-disk encryption (FDE) by default. According to security software firm Symantec, FDE (also called whole disk encryption) "protects a disc in the event of theft or accidental loss" and "encrypts the entire disc including swap files, system files, and hibernation files." That means if anyone finds it, the contact remains unreadable.

Unfortunately, human traffickers are using encrypted cell phones "to run and conceal their criminal activities," said Cooper. "Full-disk encrypted operating systems provide criminals an invaluable tool to prey on women, children, and threaten our freedoms while making the legal process of judicial court orders, useless."

Indeed, there are only two ways to access data stored on a smartphone with FDE installed on the operating system. The user can access it using a passcode or the user can give the passcode to someone else. In other words, without a passcode, the content remains locked -- even to law enforcement that establishes a probable cause, obtains a search warrant from a judge, and takes possession of the phone.

Analyst: This Won't Work

Cooper is convinced that AB 1681 will help law enforcement agencies prevent losing critical evidence in...

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