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UK’s Proposed Surveillance Law Eyes Encrypted Data

United Kingdom Parliament Big Ben Tower

A new proposed law in the United Kingdom has once again triggered the debate on privacy of information. The Draft Investigatory Powers Bill released by British Home Secretary Theresa May last week would compel communications service providers (CSP) to “maintain permanent interception capabilities” and to retain relevant communications data for statutory purposes for twelve months.

To put it simply, it means that tech companies such as Apple, Google, Microsoft and others would not be able to offer advanced encryption that even they cannot decipher when required, The Telegraph explained.

May said that the use of investigatory powers is crucial to locate missing people, to place a suspect at the scene of a crime or to identify who was in contact with whom. Powers to intercept communications, acquire communications data and interfere with equipment are essential to tackle child sexual exploitation, to dismantle serious crime cartels, take drugs and guns off our streets and prevent terrorist attacks, according to the document.

However, Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia, tweeted, “I would like to see Apple refuse to sell iPhone in UK if gov't bans end-to-end encryption. Does Parliament dare be that stupid?”

Apple, for years, has been strongly guarding its users’ data and refuses to add a “backdoor” as it undermines the protections built by it so far. Apple’s iMessages and FaceTime calls are protected by end-to end encryption across all devices.

”We can’t unlock your device for anyone because you hold the key — your unique password. We’re committed to using powerful encryption because you should know the data on your device and the information you share with others is protected”, Apple’s privacy statement reads.

Yahoo also shared its views via blog post that read, “Of most concern to us at this stage is the UK Government’s proposal to affirm extraterritorial jurisdiction over foreign service providers. National laws cannot solve an international problem. If emulated around the world, the UK Government’s extraterritoriality clause would create a chaotic legal environment and unpredictability for companies, users, and agencies.”

"Any law which bans end-to-end encryption will break data protection regulations and decrease security on the internet," The Telegraph quoted Nigel Hawthorn, European spokesperson at cloud security company Skyhigh Networks.

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