Apple has warned the UK government that proposals in the draft Investigatory Powers Bill to demand technology firms weaken encryption would make the data of millions of law-abiding citizens less secure and make it easier for hackers to “cause chaos”.
Other technology firms including Google, Facebook and Microsoft have also criticised the plans.
The warnings formed part of evidence submitted by individuals, multinational companies and non-governmental organisations on the proposed legislation to the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill Joint Committee, which has now released the documents.
Dubbed the “Snooper’s Charter” by critics, the draft Bill was reintroduced by Conservative Home Secretary Theresa May last year and proposes that government and security services should be authorised to bulk-collect personal communications data. Prime Minister David Cameron has also spoken in favour of weakening encryption by inserting backdoors.
However, in written evidence provided to the Joint Committee, Apple has warned the government that any move to weaken encryption would just put the public at a greater risk.
“Strong encryption is vital to protecting innocent people from malicious actors,” said Apple, which stated that it’s “deeply committed to protecting public safety and shares the government’s determination to combat terrorism and other violent crimes”.
Nonetheless, while keen to help the British government prevent crimes, Apple argued that in order to comply with the proposal put forward, “the personal data of millions of law-abiding citizens would be less secure”.
Indeed, Apple warned that strong encryption is a must in order to protect people from ever more prevalent malicious activities from hackers, otherwise economic stability and infrastructure could be impacted.
“Increasingly sophisticated hacking schemes and cyber-attacks have become the new normal as individuals live more of their lives on their devices and online. Without strong defence, these attacks have the potential to impose chaos, and threaten our way of life, economic stability and infrastructure,” Apple warned.
The company told the Joint Committee that “increasingly stronger – not weaker – encryption is the best way to protect against these threats” and that the Investigatory Powers Bill will “hurt law-abiding citizens in its effort to combat the few bad actors who have a variety of ways to carry out their attacks”.
Apple also warned that weakening encryption would be dangerous to customers using its devices.
“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”.
Ultimately, Apple warned that the Bill could put the privacy and security of people all around the world at increased risk
“We believe there is a need for much greater clarity as to how the powers in the Bill will be applied, not least because, once again, the extension of the powers to overseas providers will set a precedent which, if followed by other countries, could endanger the privacy and security of users in the UK and elsewhere,” the submission concluded.
In separate written evidence to the Joint Committee, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Twitter also expressed concerns about what the Investigatory Powers Bill meant for encryption.
“Encryption is a fundamental security tool, important to the security of the digital economy as well as crucial to ensuring the safety of web users worldwide,” read a joint statement by the technology firms, who said they “reject any proposals that would require companies to deliberately weaken the security of their products via backdoors, forced decryption, or any other means”.
“We therefore have concerns that the Bill includes ‘obligations relating to the removal of electronic protection applied by a relevant operator to any communication or data’ and that these are explicitly intended to apply extraterritorially with limited protections for overseas providers,” the statement added.
British technology firms have also issued warnings against the Investigatory Powers Bill, arguing that it represents a government right to hack and represents a risk to British business.
Chairman of the Joint Committee, Lord Murphy of Torfaen, thanked the wide range of parties which submitted evidence on the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill.
“The Committee is grateful to the wide range of people and organisations who have taken the time and effort to submit evidence to the inquiry,” he said.