Information Security

Apple Warns of Weakened Security of Personal Data

The tech giant slams a British plan to give intelligence agencies more online surveillance powers.
Katie Kuehner-HebertDecember 22, 2015

Apple warned that the security of personal data for millions of people would be weakened and the tech sector “paralyzed” if a British proposal to give intelligence agencies extra online surveillance powers is enacted, Reuters reported today.

The U.S. technology company voiced opposition to the so-called Investigatory Powers Bill, which is intended to keep the country safe from Islamist militants, criminals, and fraudsters, according to the news service.

Critics contend the proposal infringes too much on privacy, going beyond other Western countries’ surveillance tactics, including the right to find out which websites people visit.

“We believe it is wrong to weaken security for hundreds of millions of law-abiding customers so that it will also be weaker for the very few who pose a threat,” Apple reportedly wrote in a letter to a British parliamentary committee that is scrutinizing the new bill.

Apple said the draft laws could weaken data encryption, sanction interference with its products, force non-U.K. companies to break the laws of their home countries, and spark similar legislation in other countries that could paralyze firms under the weight of dozens of contradictory laws.

For its part, Microsoft said in an interview with Reuters that an international approach would keep people more secure than competing measures from different countries.

“The legislation must avoid conflicts with the laws of other nations and contribute to a system where like-minded governments work together, not in competition, to keep people more secure,” a Microsoft spokeswoman told Reuters.

The British government reportedly contends that the proposals would not ban encryption or undermine the security of people’s data. But Apple disagreed, contending that the new law would require service providers to help intercept data and hack suspects’ devices, Reuters said.

The new bill would also allow security services vendors to perform “equipment interference,” whereby spies take over computers or smartphones to access their data, according to the news service.

Apple reportedly criticized any such requirement to create “backdoors” that could weaken the protections built into Apple products.

“A key left under the doormat would not just be there for the good guys,” Apple stated, according to the Reuters piece. “The bad guys would find it too.”

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