The equipment interference provisions in the draft Investigatory Powers Bill would permit the intelligence and security services, police and the military to hack into gadgets to get information, such as communications, when they have a warrant to do so. The government contends that the hacking provisions that are part of the wider web surveillance legislation are required so that law implementation can capture the communications of offenders even when they are encrypted.
However, tech companies have cautioned that the arrangement would set a dangerous precedent that would be trailed by different nations, will damage trust in their services and might be difficult to execute at any rate.
In a combined submission to the committee of MPs examining the legislation, technology giants Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo! warned this provision would be a step in the wrong direction: "To the extent this could involve the introduction of risks or vulnerabilities into products or services, it would be a very dangerous precedent to set, and we would urge your government to reconsider," they said.
They warned that the legislation doesn't currently contain any necessities to ensure network integrity and cyber security or any prerequisite for agencies to educate companies of vulnerabilities that could later be abused by others.
In its submission, Apple said the plans would put tech companies in a very hard position. "For the consumer in, say, Germany, this might represent hacking of their data by an Irish business on behalf of the [U.K.] state under a bulk warrant - activity which the provider is not even allowed to confirm or deny. Maintaining trust in such circumstances will be extremely difficult."
It said that there is a requirement for a much greater clarity as to how the powers in the bill will be applied specifically because this regulation will set a precedent, which if followed by other countries, could threaten the privacy and security of users in the U.K. and elsewhere.
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