Tech companies including Apple, Microsoft, Google and Facebook have criticized plans by the UK government for a new law that would allow law enforcement to hack computer systems to access data.
The equipment interference provisions in the draft Investigatory Powers Bill would allow the intelligence and security services, police and the armed forces to hack into devices to obtain data, such as communications, when they have a warrant to do so. 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 tech companies have warned 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.
In a combined submission to the committee of MPs examining the legislation, technology giants Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo! warned this provision would be a step in the wrong direction: “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,” they said.
They warned that the legislation doesn’t currently contain any requirements to protect network integrity and cyber security or any requirement for agencies to inform companies of vulnerabilities that could later be exploited by others.
“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.