Six stand against the UK’s Investigatory Powers Bill

Together, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo must represent the lion’s share of systems and services which will come under the control of the UK’s Investigatory Powers Bill, if and when it becomes law later this year. That these six giants have taken to writing to UK Parliament again is an act of great significance, and what they write cannot be ignored.

Currently, this Bill is going through its committee stage, during which it needs to be amended, tweaked, dare I say reformed into something which is much less of a toolbox for the totalitarian. The six giants are not the only bodies to have made written submissions at this stage: nearly forty have been made so far, several among them raising equally serious matters which the committee must address.

The six giants sound a clear warning to the UK’s Parliament in their opening sentences:
“we have summarised below the concerns that were previously raised to the Joint Committee but which have not been addressed by the Government in the new Bill.”

Those concerns are over:

  • extraterritorial jurisdiction,
  • clarity on technical issues of encryption,
  • Technical Capability Notices and the need for their judicial authorisation,
  • extension of the judicial ‘double lock’ to all provisions in the Bill,
  • vagueness and safeguards for bulk collection,
  • transparency and legal process,
  • judicial process,
  • oversight,
  • network integrity.

If the committee is to address those, it has a lot of rewriting to do, and very quickly indeed if the UK Government is to get this Bill ready for the statute book this autumn. It is perhaps now that the Home Secretary might be wondering whether it would have been better to respond to these concerns before introducing the Bill to Parliament. Or perhaps she has every intention of ignoring the six giants, in the hope that they will go away.

David successfully felled one Goliath. I doubt whether the UK Government’s rather worn-out slingshot is capable of maiming Yahoo, let alone knocking all six out.