Apple slams encryption proposals in UK Investigatory Powers Bill

Apple slams UK Investigatory Powers Bill over encryption concerns

Apple has called on the UK government to rein in key sections of the Snoopers’ Charter amid concerns that the proposals would force the firm to weaken its use of encryption.

“The creation of backdoors and intercept capabilities would weaken the protections built into Apple products and endanger all our customers,” the firm said in a written submission to the UK government, which is currently scrutinising the draft Investigatory Powers Bill.

“A key left under the doormat would not just be there for the good guys. The bad guys would find it too.”

The draft proposals, released by home secretary Theresa May in November, set out plans to give police, government and intelligence agencies increased surveillance powers.

The bill also seeks to legitimise a number of techniques that have previously been used without parliamentary oversight, including hacking into devices and mass data retention.

Apple has now publicly highlighted a number of concerns about the bill. The company claims that the proposals threaten to hurt law-abiding citizens in the process of snooping on the “few bad actors who have a variety of ways to carry out their attacks”.

Apple also criticised plans that would force companies to hand over communications content when requested by the UK government. A number of Apple products, such as iMessage, use end-to-end encryption which means that not even Apple can decrypt the contents.

“Some have asserted, given the expertise of technology companies, that they should be able to construct a system that keeps the data of nearly all users secure but still allows the data of a very few users to be read covertly when a proper warrant is served,” Apple said.

“But the government does not know in advance which individuals will become targets of investigation, so the encryption system necessarily would need to be compromised for everyone.

“The best minds in the world cannot rewrite the laws of mathematics. Any process that weakens the mathematical models that protect user data will, by extension, weaken the protection.”

Foreign and domestic
Apple also voiced concerns about the bill forcing non-UK companies to “take actions that violate the laws of their home countries”.

A number of major technology firms, including Google, Microsoft and Apple, all operate on a global scale which has left many concerned about having different laws applying to different regions.

“Those businesses affected will have to cope with a set of overlapping foreign and domestic laws. When these laws inevitably conflict, the businesses will be left having to arbitrate between them, knowing that in doing so they might risk sanctions. That is an unreasonable position to be placed in,” said Apple.

“[The proposals] would also likely be the catalyst for other countries to enact similar laws, paralysing multinational corporations under the weight of what could be dozens or hundreds of contradictory country-specific laws.”

The UK parliament has put the bill under increasing scrutiny since its publication, inviting oral and written evidence from technology firms, security experts and privacy groups.

Some of these groups have echoed serious concerns about the bill’s stance on encryption, hacking and bulk snooping.

Firefox developer Mozilla, for example, warned that the Investigatory Powers Bill represents a “broad and dangerous” set of surveillance proposals that threaten user privacy and security on the internet.

TechUK, which represents over 850 companies, including Apple, Microsoft and Samsung, raised concerns about ISPs being required to retain internet connection records for 12 months.

Indeed, it was revealed during one session of the Joint Select Committee that the storage of these records alone would cost the UK taxpayer up to £17m a year.

However, the UK government has insisted that it has no intention of weakening encryption. Ed Vaizey, minister of state for culture and the digital economy, recently played down such reports.

“We don’t have any problem with people encrypting. We understand that encryption is a way of keeping your data safe. We encourage encryption so I don’t really know what the ‘debate’ is,” he said during a recent roundtable event at Westminster attended by V3.

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22 December 2015 | 11:30 am – Source: v3.co.uk

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