Apple hits out at British plans to extend online surveillance

Tue Dec 22, 2015 8:30am EST
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By Paul Sandle

LONDON (Reuters) - Apple (AAPL.O: Quote) has warned that a British plan to give intelligence agencies extra online surveillance powers could weaken the security of personal data for millions of people and paralyze the tech sector.

Britain unveiled proposals for new online powers last month that it said were needed to keep the country safe from criminals, fraudsters and militants, including the right to find out which websites people visit.

Critics however say the Investigatory Powers Bill gives British spies authority beyond those available in other Western countries, including the United States, and that it constitutes an assault on personal freedom.

"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," the iPhone maker said.

Apple submitted its response to a British parliamentary committee that is scrutinizing the new bill in the latest clash between Western governments seeking to monitor the threat from Islamist militants and online companies working to maintain security.

Apple said the draft laws could weaken data encryption, sanction interference with its products, force non-UK 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.

Lending support to Apple's view, Microsoft (MSFT.O: Quote) also said 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 likeminded governments work together, not in competition, to keep people more secure," a spokeswoman said.   Continued...

A customer enters the new Apple store, which is the world's largest, on its opening day at Covent Garden in London in this August 7, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett/Files