For an astounding five decades, Silicon Valley has forged ahead, seemingly able to surmount any challenge. This is a romanticized view. In reality, technology companies are constantly racing along a cliff edge, risking their customers security at every turn. Any sudden push would plunge Silicon Valley into the precipice, where hackers and other predators wait eagerly.
The senate is currently drafting a bill that would wreck havoc on Silicon Valley. On April 7th, this nine page draft legislation by Senators Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein leaked, and the outrage has been palpable. These legislators have the audacity to presume a nine page document can regulate encryption, an issue of immense complexity. Used by nearly everyone, encryption is understood by close to none. Clearly Senators Burr and Feinstein have no grasp of this subject, as is evident in the draft. The bill, if passed, would require companies to dismantle strong encryption, and provide judges with data in “an intelligible format.” However, the bill does not define this “intelligible format,” nor does it lay out when judges are permitted to request this data. I would implore the senators to provide legislation in an intelligible format, before they require Silicon Valley to do so with data.
In a recent piece reviewing encryption, John Oliver said of legislators, “they either don’t understand how technology works, or are pretending not to.” This insight applies all to well in the case of Senators Burr and Feinstein. Weakening encryption, as proposed in the draft legislation, would decimate the security of the entire nation. Hackers posses incredible ingenuity, and given an opportunity such as this, they would have a field day. Any information, passwords, text messages, medical data, etcetera, would be accessible to hackers, no matter their intentions.
Secondly, the bill contains absolutely nothing concerning when. When are judges permitted to requisition data from companies? Perhaps only in matter of life and death? But then, what circumstances constitute such a matter? Each question leads only to heightened confusion, and the draft legislation does nothing to alleviate these apprehensions. Quite the contrary, it creates them through its ambiguity. Constitutional rule includes a principle known as the vagueness doctrine, based in the 5th and 14th amendments. According to Cornell University Law School, “under vagueness doctrine, a statute is also void for vagueness if a legislature’s delegation of authority to judges and/or administrators is so extensive that it would lead to arbitrary prosecutions.” There is no doubt that this bill falls under the vagueness doctrine, which only further reveals it’s incompetence.
Senators Burr and Feinstein are drafting bill that would push Silicon Valley over the edge, into a chasm they may not climb out of. If passed, such legislation would degrade the security of millions, and simultaneously overpower the judiciary system. There is no place in our governance for such an outrageous statute. It is the responsibility of lawmakers to educate themselves concerning technology, to assure a bill such as this is never put into action.