A bill that is making its way through the New York state assembly would require that smartphone manufacturers build mechanisms into the devices that would allow the companies to decrypt or unlock them on demand from law enforcement.
The New York bill is the latest entry in a long-running debate between privacy advocates and security experts on one side and law enforcement agencies and many politicians on the other. The revelations of the last few years about widespread government surveillance, especially that involving cell phones and email systems, has spurred device manufacturers to increase the use of encryption. New Apple iPhones now are encrypted by default, as are some Android devices.
The FBI, Justice Department and other agencies have been pushing back against this trend, talking with manufacturers about potential ways around default or user-enabled encryption.