Twitter, Facebook, Google and US tech giants blast "snooper's charter" and encryption demands of Draft Investigatory Powers Bill

 
Lynsey Barber
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Tech companies have responded to the draft bill on monitoring communications (Source: Getty)

Facebook, Google and Twitter are among the US tech giants to blast the so-called snooper's charter, raising several concerns about the new legislation for monitoring communications.

The tech companies, which took the unusual step of making a submission to the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill committee together and also includes Yahoo and Microsoft, highlighted concerns over the cross-border jurisdiction and conflicting legal obligations the new laws would raise.

The collective also rejected any attempt at weakening encryption:

"We reject any proposals that would require companies to deliberately weaken the security of their products via backdoors, forced decryption, or any other means," the companies said, suggesting that the bill expressly states that there is no requirement to "weaken or defeat its security measures".

In a separate submission, Apple also called for the government to rethink its plans to "weaken security for hundreds of millions of law abiding customers so that it will be weaker for the very few who pose a threat."

The alliance of tech companies warned there is a risk if warrants are served on companies located outside the UK through their staff located here.

Read more: Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee warns of government "snooper's charter"

"We have collective experience around the world of personnel who have nothing to do with the data sought being arrested or intimidated in an attempt to force overseas corporation to disclose user information. We do not believe that the UK wants to legitimise this lawless and heavy-handed practice," they said.

They also called for the burden to lay with the government when it comes to user notification. The tech companies insist people should be notified if their data is requested by the government, but if there is a reason such as public safety or a criminal investigation, the government must make the case as to why user notification be delayed.

The new law would put user trust at risk, they argued:

"The ultimate test we apply to each of the authorities in this bill is whether they will promote and maintain the trust users place in our technology. Even where these authorities do not apply to overseas providers like our companies, we are concerned that some of the authorities contained in the bill, as currently drafted, represent a step in the wrong direction. The clearest example is the authority to engage in computer network exploitation, or equipment interference. 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."

Among the submissions to the committee, made public today for the first time, are responses from internet service providers (ISPs), academics, media and privacy campaigners.

The controversial charter has been criticised by digital privacy advocates, however, David Cameron says the new measures will be used to tackle extremism and crime by giving the police and intelligence agencies greater access to online data and information.

The original bill put forward under the previous government and known as the Communications Data Bill, was blocked by the Conservative's Lib Dem coalition partners.

The next step for the bill is for the Lords and MPs on the committee to review the submissions and hear more evidence. Home secretary Theresa May will answer their questions in the bill next week.

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