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Snoopers Charter 2: Apple teams up with Facebook, Google, Twitter and more to ask Government to change Investigatory Powers Bill

The companies have many of the same objections that they have registered throughout the process — but outlines them in the strongest possible terms, arguing that the could undermine some of the internet’s most important protections

Andrew Griffin
Thursday 24 March 2016 17:12 GMT
File: Home Secretary Theresa May speaks to the press in Brussels on 4 December, 2015
File: Home Secretary Theresa May speaks to the press in Brussels on 4 December, 2015 (AFP/Getty Images)

Apple and the rest of the world’s largest tech companies have launched a sweeping attack on the Government’s spying bill, arguing that it still has huge flaws that must be corrected before it passes into law.

The company — along with Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo — has sent written evidence to the bill considering the law adding that major parts of it needs to be re-written. While the note acknowledges that the new legislation is necessary, it presents major criticisms of the powers that are enabled by the bill.

Perhaps most aggressively, the companies criticise the powers to break encryption that the bill appears to offer. Encryption technology — which powers Apple’s iMessage and WhatsApp, for instance — is meant to ensure that messages can only be read by the people sending and receiving them.

But the new bill could allow the Government to force companies to break that electronic protection, the companies claim. The only requirement is that removing such protection will only be done if it is “reasonably practicable”.

The bill should instead be amended “so that there is an explicit threshold” for when technologies like iMessage and WhatsApp should be broken into to retrieve data, the companies argue. That would bring with it a recognition that it is not practicable to provide messages that are sent over encrypted services, the company say, rather than allowing the rule to be “established on a case-by-case basis”.

Apple and the rest of the companies argue that those writing the bill have misunderstood the way that encryption works, and that breaking into encryption once would “damage” security as soon as they are forced to break into it.

The submission also criticises the bill on a number of other fronts — including apparently confusing rules for the way that it applies overseas, the ways that it keeps companies from disclosing or appealing orders that are made against them, and the mechanisms for checking that the law is not being abused.

Many of those criticisms have already been made by companies including Apple. But the new submission comes at a critical time for the bill and the collaboration between the six companies marks a new moment in the wide criticism of it.

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