Tech Firms Urge Further Improvements to Snoopers' Charter

Technology firms are urging further improvements to the UK government’s Investigatory Powers Bill as it enters the next phase in the journey to becoming law.

The bill passed its second reading by 281 votes to 15 this month, and was referred to the House of Commons Public Bill Committee for detailed examination.

The committee will look at the bill line by line in April and is scheduled to complete its work no later than the 5th May.

In a written submission the committee began hearing evidence from legal and judicial experts, child protection groups and representatives of law enforcement, with tech firms such as Apple, Google and Microsoft reiterating their concerns about the bill.

The tech firms said: "As we made clear in our evidence to the joint committee, the actions the UK government takes here could have far-reaching implications – for British citizens, our users and for the future of the global technology industry. Decisions made today about UK legislation will set precedents which may be copied elsewhere and have wider ramifications for all parties, both in the UK and overseas.”

The areas of great concern include extra-territorial jurisdiction, the lack of clarity around encryption bulk collection, transparency, judicial process, oversight, network integrity and cyber security requirements.

The tech firms added: “Encryption is a fundamental security tool, important to the security of the digital economy as well as crucial to ensuring the safety of web users worldwide.

“The bill provides for the power to issue technical capability notices requiring, among other things, the removal of electronic protection where reasonably practicable.

“The bill should be amended so that there is an explicit threshold: where a service is encrypted end-to-end, the bill should recognise it will not be reasonably practicable to provide decrypted content, rather than leave this to be established on a case-by-case basis.”

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