Apple has launched a challenge against the UK Government over the adoption of the controversial Investigatory Powers Bill, commonly referred to as the ‘Snoopers Charter’. As other tech companies line up to do the same, I joined TRT World’s Money Matters show last month to discuss what this all means for Apple and for the future of the Bill (video below).
The Draft Investigatory Powers Bill was released in November 2015 and received immediate criticism from privacy campaigners and the tech community. Without doubt, the current laws being used to combat crime and terrorism are outdated, with many having been introduced before the digital revolution, the UK government may well have made a blunder in trying to extend its powers too far. One of the key proposals is for ‘Communications Firms’ to hold a year’s worth of communication data – that’s what you were doing, when and with who – but not the content. The exact definition of ‘Communications Firm’ has not yet been clarified.
For Apple, the real threat is about the potential disclosure of customer data, which may be limited to content shared over iChat (that even Apple say it doesn’t see), but the Government could demand Apple share. This goes to the heart of Apple’s valuable relationship with its customers, the trust it has built up and its ethos around user privacy.
As well as Apple, although the precise nature of the comments is yet to be seen, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Twitter are all expected to respond to the Government’s invitation to comment in addition to Internet Service Providers many of whom have already made their thoughts known. At the current committee stage of the proposed legislation, there is still scope for significant changes to be made, but they must be reasoned. We have seen Google spending significant amounts of money on lobbying across Europe on data protection issues, and this will certainly form part of its effort in the UK.