When the Snoopers’ Charter first made the headlines late last year, it received a lot of well-deserved backlash and criticism. Although this is old news, there has been some recent developments around the draft of the Investigatory Powers Bill. For starters, a number of MPs have criticized the government for the vagueness of the draft, and now the Science and Technology Committee of Parliament further condemns it based on potential economic implications.
After hearing evidence from leading technology firms such as Apple, Google, Mozilla, Facebook, and Microsoft, the Science and Technology Committee published a detailed, 42-page report summing up its stance on the controversial legislature. In short, main areas of concern were encryption and bulk data collection.
Encryption and bulk data collection
As far as encryption goes, it’s very unclear how the government plans to handle it under the new law. The largest concern here is the question of whether or not firms that use end-to-end encryption will be forced to build in backdoors for data access. If this is the case, then this will result in companies having to self-compromise the security of their services in order to comply with the law, and some tech giants aren’t having it. Apple is one of the companies which said that they won’t create back doors for the government, so if this draft actually goes through it could potentially mean the end of iPhone sales in the UK.
Bulk data collection is another key problem brought up by the Science and Technology Committee. As a refresher, this point refers to the part of the draft which states that communications providers will have to keep communication records on all customers for a 12-month period. Besides the obvious ethical implications for citizens’ privacy, the committee brought up some valid points concerning the security risk of storing such large amounts of data. Additionally, the government did not clarify as to why logs need to be kept for so long, and their intentions are quite unclear.
The above is just a couple of the many concerns put forth by the Science and Technology Committee when it comes to the lack of clarity in the draft of the Investigatory Powers Bill.
As it currently stands, the bill has the potential to not only cripple the citizens’ faith in digital services, but it could also be detrimental to the country’s economy as a whole. Nicola Blackwood MP, says that the UK “cannot afford to create laws that damage the growing technology sector.”
Besides the active pushback from the Science and Technology Committee, many tech groups have come together to urge action. Recently. the Home Office presented a positive response, claiming that they will “take on board the recommendations, to produce a bill that is clear, technically feasible and maintains trust in online services.” As nice as that sounds, we won’t know what changes to expect until the final proposal is introduced in Parliament later this year.
Until then, you can take some safeguard precautions to guarantee your own online health, and a VPN is a great place to start.
Union Jack image courtesy of sippakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Cellphone image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net