There have been plenty of doubts expressed about the potential efficacy of the new draft Investigatory Powers Bill, even within our own pages. But opposition to the bill is clearly building up a head of steam, with news that Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo have come together to submit evidence to the UK government voicing their concerns over the proposed measures.
In evidence submitted to a joint select committee on the proposed bill, the firms not only expressed concerns over the example the bill may set for governments around the globe but also that measures forcing companies to retain user encryption keys may only serve to weaken security for their users. In the document submitted, they said: “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.”
And these tech giants aren’t the only ones to chime in with their two-penneth: Apple has also made no bones about its opposition to the bill. The tech giant submitted evidence of its own back on December 21, commenting: “A key left under the doormat would not just be there for the good guys. The bad guys would find it too.” Among other organisations to have proffered evidence are EE, TechUK and Vodafone, all registering feedback on the bill that ranges from neutral to cautiously positive.
Meanwhile, William Binney, whistleblower and former technical director of the NSA, has also urged the UK government to reconsider its position. Binney appeared in front of the government’s select committee on January 6 to argue that the proposed bill could ultimately cause more harm than good. Speaking to WIRED ahead of his appearance, he explained that overwhelming security analysts with more information could actually cost more lives than it saves, saying: “Fundamentally, bulk acquisition is a major impediment to success by analysts and law enforcement.”
Whilst tech firms have become rather more vociferous on the issue of surveillance in recent times, it does seem like the sheer number coming out in opposition to the draft Investigatory Powers Bill kicks things into a new gear.