Oh UK.gov. Say you're not for weakened encryption – Google and Facebook

Companies weigh in on Investigatory Powers Bill

IPB Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo have called on the UK government to explicitly state it does not intend to weaken encryption in the forthcoming Investigatory Powers Bill, in a jointly submitted statement published today.

The statement was one of 120 pieces of written evidence which have been submitted to the Joint Committee on the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill to have been published today.

The companies said 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.

"We reject any proposals that would require companies to deliberately weaken the security of their products via backdoors, forced decryption, or any other means," it said.

"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 extra-territorially with limited protections for overseas providers.

The companies said the bill should "expressly state that nothing in the bill should be construed to require a company to weaken or defeat its security measures."

The Silicon Valley giants' evidence echoes calls made by Apple that plans to hand police and security services access to the records of every UK citizen’s internet could set a dangerous precedent for other countries.

"The actions the UK Government takes here could have far reaching implications – for our customers, for your own citizens, and for the future of the global technology industry," said the companies.

The evidence also stated that no business should be compelled to generate and retain data that it does not ordinarily generate in the course of its business.

They said surveillance laws should not permit bulk collection of information.

The word “bulk” can be ambiguous. We understand from David Anderson QC's report that, in the UK, bulk warrants allow a specific communications channel external to the UK to be specified due to the link with a specific national security or serious crime threat. It is then filtered and searched for identifiers.

The committee will respond with a report by 11 February this year. ®

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