Apple warns UK against weakening security for hundreds of millions of people

22 Dec 2015

Apple has implored UK lawmakers to make changes to its Investigatory Powers Bill, as it warns it will create a back door for bad guys as well as good guys into the privacy and security of hundreds of millions of people.

In a submission to the bill committee, Apple expressed major concerns.

“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,” Apple said.

Future Human

“In this rapidly evolving cyber-threat environment, companies should remain free to implement strong encryption to protect customers.”

UK bill could be a recipe for disaster

The new Investigatory Powers Bill presented to the House of Commons by home secretary Theresa May gives new surveillance powers to police and allows ministers to approve warrants for extensive interceptions – which a panel of judges may veto. It also requires internet and phone companies to keep “internet connection records” for up to 12 months, which will not require a warrant to access. It also officially brings into law the power for the collection of bulk data, which means metadata, which the document says is “crucial” to monitor threats.

The bill also gives security services the power to hack into computers worldwide and orders tech firms to aid security services when they need help hacking into devices.

Apple said it fears that the bill will give the UK government the power to demand Apple alters the way its iMessage service works.

In turn, this would weaken encryuption and allow security services to eavesdrop on iMessage for the first time.

“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.”

This echoes the sentiment expressed by Apple CEO Tim Cook during a visit to Dublin last month that the bill could be a recipe for disaster.

“It’s a bit vague about surveillance and the intention of the UK government is good national security,” he told students at Trinity College Dublin. “And all of us would say that we want to be secure and have the bad guys shipped off somewhere but the reality of today is there are hackers everywhere. People want to take your data, there are bad governments in the world and bad people in the world and if you leave a backdoor in software there’s no such thing as a backdoor for the good guys only.”

House of Commons image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years