In a rare bonhomie the three tech giants came together to criticize United Kingdom’s new hacking law. Apple, Microsoft, Google and Facebook criticized plans by the UK government for a new law that would allow government authorities and law enforcement agencies to hack computer systems to access data.
According to the provisions of the draft Investigatory Powers Bill, government authorities and law enforcement agencies like intelligence and security services, police and the armed forces would be free to hack into devices belonging to Britons and visitors to United Kingdom to obtain data, such as communications, when they have a warrant to do so.
The draft bill has been pilloried by netizens on social network however, the government argues that the hacking provisions – part of the wider internet surveillance legislation – are needed so that law enforcement can intercept the communications of criminals even when they are encrypted.
However the gang of four tech companies have put together a warning saying that the plan would set a dangerous precedent that would be followed by other countries, will damage trust in their services and may be impossible to implement anyway.
The tech giants have issued a joint submission to the committee of MP’s overseeing the nitty gritties of the bill before it is submitted before the UK’s parliament for vote.
In the joint submission, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo state that, “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.”
“We urge the government to make clear that actions taken under authorization do not introduce new risks or vulnerabilities for users or businesses” they said.
In its submission Apple said the plans would put tech companies in a very difficult position. “For the consumer in, say, Germany, this might represent hacking of their data by an Irish business on behalf of the UK state under a bulk warrant – activity which the provider is not even allowed to confirm or deny. Maintaining trust in such circumstances will be extremely difficult.”
All the tech companies have warned that the bill if passed by UK’s parliament would spell doom for, “if followed by other countries, could endanger the privacy and security of users in the UK and elsewhere.”
UK’s largest mobile operator, Vodafone also joined the anti bill bandwagon. It warned that equipment interference elements are perhaps the most contentious of all the powers within the scope of the draft bill.
“The obligations relating to equipment interference have the potential to significantly undermine trust in the United Kingdom’s communications service providers”, it warned.
Firefox maker Mozilla warned that the “bulk systems intrusion” provisions in the bill could be used to “compel a software developer, like Mozilla, to ship hostile software, essentially malware, to a user — or many users — without notice.”