Apple Firms Up Challenge to Proposed U.K. Spying Law
Saying threats to national security don’t justify weakening privacy and putting the data of hundreds of millions of users at risk, Apple this week reaffirmed its opposition to a proposed surveillance law in the United Kingdom. The Investigatory Powers Bill would seek to strengthen the capabilities of British law enforcement agencies as they investigate potential crimes or terrorist attacks -- including giving the government access to the Internet browsing history of its citizens.
A number of tech companies, led by Apple, are opposing the bill. Apple this week said that the U.K. government already has access to more citizen data than in any time in history, and that the proposed bill would weaken encryption and other digital privacy tools. That could open the door to hackers and government spy agencies, and lead to a slippery slope by which other governments would adopt similar laws, according to Apple.
Access to Data
Among other things, the bill would: require Web and phone companies to store records of Web sites visited by every citizen for 12 months for access by police, security services and other authorities; require that Internet and phone companies have the ability to intercept and collect personal data that goes through their networks; and dictate that enforcement of obligations on overseas Web and phone companies in the courts would be limited to interception and to targeted communications data requests.
Such a bill would hamper multinational companies by forcing them to adhere to numerous, possibly contradictory laws that are country-specific, Apple said. American companies fear that if they’re obligated to obey the proposed U.K. law, other countries -- including Russia and China -- would demand the same access to the company’s data. Those demands could be in conflict with the privacy laws of the countries in which the data is held, Apple said.
"The creation of back doors and intercept capabilities would weaken the protections built into Apple products and endanger all our customers," Apple said in an eight-page document addressed to the parliamentary committee weighing the bill. "A key left under the doormat would not just be there for the good guys. The bad guys would find it, too."
Part of the issue for law enforcement agencies is that Apple designs some of its products with end-to-end encryption, meaning only the sender and recipient of a message can see it in an unscrambled form. Agencies assert that this level of encryption can hamper their investigative efforts.
In the wake of Apple’s response, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo and Microsoft will also be providing feedback to the parliamentary committee, according to reports. Apple CEO Tim Cook strongly supports strong encryption technology, saying it protects personal communication for the millions who use Apple products, as well as data related to health care, finance and business.
Apple said it customarily cooperates with the British government when its law enforcement entities are looking for information. However, Apple maintained that if it was required to weaken its encryption standards, criminals and terrorists would continue using other widely available technology to compromise data.
Posted: 2015-12-24 @ 4:19pm PT
If these powers were strictly limited to terrorism it would not be so bad, but as we've seen with RIPA, pretty much any government department can access the data for petty crimes.
Posted: 2015-12-24 @ 12:25pm PT
Apple is right. The government has proven time and time again it can't be trusted to keep our data safe. This has more to do with monitoring and control of the populace, rather than protection. The use of fear to further erode our right to privacy is disgraceful.
Posted: 2015-12-24 @ 12:02pm PT
U.K. government needs IT support. They just don't get it.
Posted: 2015-12-24 @ 11:25am PT
Apple is right in taking a stand. No one should have access to the intimate communications we have with friends or family. Anyone who favors this move by the government is a fool.
Posted: 2015-12-24 @ 9:57am PT
The way things are today, the security agencies must have the right to access phone data on suspects' phones. If Apple does not give the agencies the key to look into these suspect phones and encrypt anyway, with no way in, then the government should ban the sale of them totally and crush any that get through. No ifs or buts.
Posted: 2015-12-24 @ 8:32am PT
When the US government already holds these powers over Apple it's odd that they don't wish our UK government to have the same powers.
Posted: 2015-12-24 @ 7:22am PT
Totally agree with Apple, all data should be totally protected.