US bill aims to prevent state-wise ban on encrypted phones
Displayed is an encrypted Android-run smartphone, the Blackphone, which encrypts text, voice and video calls and was launched at the Mobile World CongressReuters

A new bill introduced in the US Congress will seek to stop states from imposing restrictions or bans on encrypted tech devices. The move comes amidst the raging debate on government control over user data privacy in the US.

The Ensuring National Constitutional Rights of Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016, now known as the Encrypt Act was introduced by California Congressman Ted Lieu on 10 February. The bill, if approved, would effectively prohibit any state from meddling with encrypted devices.

The proposed legislation has been designed as a response to the recent New York and California states' bills which call for a state-wide ban on encrypted smartphones, effective from 2017. "You cannot design a technological backdoor only for the good guys, because hackers will eventually find that backdoor, or what's more likely is the federal government will get hacked through that backdoor," said Congressman Lieu, according to a Wired report.

Almost all smartphones these days come with in-built encryption. This is true of Apple's iPhones as well as most Android smartphones. Encryption ensures that users' private data is kept safe from third parties like malicious hackers or, in this case, government-backed snooping.

Apple, Google, Microsoft and others have strongly opposed government pressure to restrict and/or ban encryption. Apple CEO Tim Cook has been the most outspoken, even challenging the US government to adopt a "no backdoor" policy.

Congressman Lieu stands in support of the stand that banning encryption could prove more harmful to cybersecurity in the long run. "There's not a single shred of evidence that an encryption backdoor would have prevented any terrorist attack," he added. If encryption is approved, it could provide much-needed relief to tech companies in their struggle to maintain safety and quality, as well as ensure that users' privacy is not encroached upon by the state.