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Apple Criticizes UK Bill to Expand Internet Surveillance

UK Home Secretary Theresa May insists the Investigatory Powers Bill is a vital tool in the fight against terrorism. (Photo: Creative Commons)

UK Home Secretary Theresa May insists the Investigatory Powers Bill is a vital tool in the fight against terrorism. (Photo: Creative Commons)

California-based computer giant Apple on Monday criticized a proposed British law that would grant national security and law enforcement officials expanded

The Wall Street Journal reports Apple submitted an eight-page document to the British Parliamentary Scrutiny Committee arguing the Investigatory Powers Bill would threaten the privacy of “the personal data of millions of law-abiding citizens.”

The measure has been criticized for giving police and security services the power to spy on every British citizen’s Internet use without any warrant or judicial check. The bill would also require Internet and phone companies to keep “Internet connection records” for up to a year, tracking every site visited but not specific pages. Additionally, it would compel companies including Apple to retain “permanent interception capabilities” for communications, including “the ability to remove any encryption.”

Home Secretary Theresa May argued last month that the proposed law is needed to help Britain better counter terrorism threats.

“The legislation we are proposing today is unprecedented,” May told Parliament on November 4. “It will provide unparalleled openness and transparency about our investigatory powers. It will provide the strongest safeguards and world-leading oversight arrangements. And it will give the men and women of our security and intelligence agencies and our law enforcement agencies—who do so much to keep us safe and secure—the powers they need to protect our country.”

Internet privacy advocates disagreed, calling the proposed law the “Snooper’s Charter.”

“By my read, #SnoopersCharter legitimizes mass surveillance. It is the most intrusive and least accountable surveillance regime in the West,” exiled former US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted upon learning of the bill.

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The British Internet industry also named May “Villain of the Year” for her backing of the Investigatory Powers Bill.

The BBC reports other US-based tech giants, including Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Twitter, have also filed their own responses to the proposed law. None of those companies has yet disclosed the contents of their filings, but a Microsoft spokesperson said that “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.”

“We appreciate the government’s willingness to engage in an open debate and will continue to advocate for a system that is workable on a global basis,” the spokesperson added.

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