Richard Ying et Tangui MorlierFrench parliamentarians have adopted an amendment to a penal reform bill that would punish companies like Apple that refuse to provide decrypted versions of messages their products have encrypted.
The Guardian reports: "The controversial amendment, drafted by the rightwing opposition, stipulates that a private company which refuses to hand over encrypted data to an investigating authority would face up to five years in jail and a €350,000 (£270,000) fine."
This is only the bill's first reading, and the final fate of the amendment is uncertain.
Earlier this year, the French government rejected crypto backdoors as "the wrong solution." "Given the government’s reluctance to take on the big phone companies in this way, it remains to be seen whether the thrust of the amendment can survive the lengthy parliamentary process that remains before the bill becomes law," The Guardian writes.
Amendment 90 (original in French) is just one of several proposals that sought to impose stiff penalties on companies that refused to cooperate with the authorities.
As the French site Numerama notes, even harsher proposals were rejected.
For example, Amendments 532 and 533 suggested imposing a fine of €1,000,000 (£770,000) on companies that refused to decrypt messages.
Amendment 221 proposed a fine of €2,000,000 (£1,550,000) and wanted "all relevant" information to be handed over, not just the decrypted messages.
Finally, Amendment 51 suggested that if a company refused to help the authorities decrypt messages, its executives would be considered as "accomplices to terrorism."
While politicians in France fall over themselves to paint Apple and others as terrorist sympathizers for defending encryption, support for the US company has come from the UN's high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. On Friday, he issued a statement urging the US authorities "to proceed with great caution in the ongoing legal process involving the Apple computer company and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), given its potentially negative ramifications for the human rights of people all over the world."
Al Hussein said he was concerned the case risked "unlocking a Pandora’s Box that could have extremely damaging implications for the human rights of many millions of people, including their physical and financial security." He went on: "It is neither fanciful nor an exaggeration to say that, without encryption tools, lives may be endangered."
This post originated on Ars Technica UK