New UK surveillance plans a big concern, says Apple

Tech giant claims new surveillance measures risk paralysing global tech sector

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Apple has raised concerns to parliament about the UK's draft Investigatory Powers Bill.

The proposed new law aims to overhaul the government's ability for surveillance and enhance its power to access people's electronic communications.

The bill would, among other things, give the government the ability to view the internet browsing history of all its citizens. But Apple says threats to national security do not justify weakening privacy and putting the data of hundreds of millions of users at risk.

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The Home Secretary Theresa May said last month that the proposed powers were needed to fight crime and terror.

Ms May said the bill would provide "some of the strongest protections and safeguards anywhere in the democratic world and an approach that sets new standards for openness, transparency and oversight", reports the Financial Times.

The American company is particularly concerned the bill would weaken digital encryption tools, creating vulnerabilities that will be exploited by sophisticated hackers and government spy agencies alike.

"The creation of backdoors and intercept capabilities would weaken the protections built into Apple products and endanger all our customers," Apple said in an eight-page submission to the parliamentary committee considering the bill. "A key left under the doormat would not just be there for the good guys. The bad guys would find it too."

Bloomberg reports that Apple is also worried about the knock-on effects the passing of the law would have globally. In response to the new rules in the UK, other governments would probably adopt their own new laws, "paralysing multinational corporations under the weight of what could be dozens or hundreds of contradictory country-specific laws," Apple claims.

"Current legislation demands that companies take reasonable steps to provide the contents of communications on production of a warrant, but that has not been interpreted as requiring firms to redesign their systems to make it possible," says the BBC's security correspondent Gordon Corera.
 But Apple, along with other technology leaders, appears to believe that the new bill could still be interpreted by the government in order to force the creation of a so-called "backdoor" into all of a company's products.

Corera believes this ambiguity in the new law is the real concern for the technology giant. "Previous laws, such as the 1984 Telecoms Act, were stretched and expanded in secret to carry out acts that the public knew little about," he says.

"The stated aim of the current bill is to improve transparency and accountability. Apple may well be hoping that it can force the government to clarify what is really intended and possible."

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