The world’s biggest company, Apple, says changes to the UK government’s investigatory powers bill would weaken the security of the “personal data of millions of law-abiding citizens”.
The Californian technology firm expressed major concerns on Monday in a submission to the bill committee, calling for wholesale changes prior to the bill being passed.
Weakening security for all users
An Apple spokesperson said “We believe it would be wrong to weaken security for hundreds of millions of law-abiding customers so that it will also be weaker for the very few who pose a threat,” they also went on to say “In this rapidly evolving cyber-threat environment, companies should remain free to implement strong encryption to protect customers”
The UK’s investigatory powers bill was presented to the House of Commons by Theresa May, the home secretary, in November. It is currently at the committee stage prior to becoming law.
Easier Snooping for the authorities
Apple highlighted the main parts of the new bill that it wants changing. They explained to the committee that certain passages of the bill would give the government the power to demand organisations, such as Apple, alter the way their products work. For Apple in particular, this would mean looking at how its messaging service, iMessage, encrypts and processes information. Apple believes that the bill would weaken encryption, enabling the security services to more easily snoop on iMessage users.
The UK Government argument
The UK government however argues that the proposed legislation will do no more than incorporate previous powers granted by ‘Ripa’, an older set of legislation. The technology firm though argues that key differences in the language used in the legislation will in fact widen the scope of the powers considerably when compared to before. Ripa only covered traditional internet service providers they suggest.
Within their submission, Apple also stated: “The creation of backdoors and intercept capabilities would weaken the protections built into Apple products and endanger all our customers. A key left under the doormat would not just be there for the good guys. The bad guys would find it too.” Strong words indeed!
Apple has other concerns too!
Apple has also expressed other concerns regarding the new draft bill, giving the security services authority to hack into any computers worldwide thereby enshrining in statute for the first time the government’s authority to do this. The draft bill contains new provisions requiring communications firms to provide assistance to security services when they need access to devices. This is something that Apple is concerned could lead to the company helping Government’s to hack its own mobile, tablet and desktop computers!
A difficult position for tech giants
They say “It would place businesses like Apple – whose relationship with customers is in part built on a sense of trust about how data will be handled – in a very difficult position”. This could lead to consumers developing a distrust of brands, even the world leader.
They go on to state “For the consumer in, say, Germany, this might represent hacking of their data by an Irish business on behalf of the UK state under a bulk warrant – activity which the provider is not even allowed to confirm or deny. Maintaining trust in such circumstances will be extremely difficult.”
Apple is clearly concerned
Apple is clearly concerned about the scope of the bill as many of the provisions apply to companies regardless of where they are based. This gives the bill international scope, despite being a purely domestic piece of legislation. It also runs the risk of placing companies in a damned if they do and damned if they don’t position. At least Apple are trying to make a stand, unlike their rivals!