French parliament deputies seek tough encryption penalties against tech companies

Apple would face fines of €350,000 ($383,778) and potential jail time in France if it adopted the same stance towards opening up access to encrypted data as it currently has in the U.S., under draft laws proposed by French parliamentary deputies.

The deputies this week proposed changes to a bill designed to reform the country's penal system that would make it compulsory for private companies like Apple to provide encrypted data to security services during investigations, the Guardian reported.

Telecoms operators would also be covered by the rules, albeit with a lower financial punishment and a lesser jail term of two years, the Guardian added.

The newspaper explained that the amendment was proposed by right-wing parliamentary deputies and that the idea flies in the face of the wishes of France's government.

That opposition by the government casts doubt on whether the proposal will remain as the penal bill works its way through the country's political system. However, the proposal was included in the first reading of the planned bill this week -- the initial step in a process that is likely to run through to May, the Guardian noted.

While the proposal is not targeted specifically at Apple -- it aims to compel all technology companies and telecoms operators to open access to encrypted information -- the announcement of the plan came amid widespread coverage of an Apple fight against a demand by the U.S. FBI to unlock an iPhone used in a recent terrorist attack.

Apple's rivals this week rallied to the company's cause. Big names including Google, Amazon, eBay, Twitter, Facebook and Microsoft were among 40 technology companies that weighed into the debate via amicus briefs -- a legal process that enables companies not directly involved in a court case to put forward their views on the matter, according to various reports.

A lawyer acting for the companies told the New York Times that they are concerned about the impact on the security of their products if the FBI is successful in forcing Apple to unlock the iPhone.

U.S. operator AT&T argued that the decision on balancing the government's security needs with citizens' right to privacy should lie with the U.S. Congress rather than its court system, the Wall Street Journal reported.

For more:
- see this Guardian article
- view this New York Times report
- read this Wall Street Journal report

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