As the encryption fight between Apple and the FBI intensifies, law makers in the UK are also looking at a bill that could possibly play a huge role in the future of the battle between privacy and national security.
A proposed bill, dubbed the Investigatory Powers Bill, has just passed its first major hurdle in the UK Parliament. According to Theresa May, who is the interior minister and Home Secretary of the UK, the new bill, if passed into law, will be heavily governed and monitored by what she called “the strongest safeguards” so that abusing them would be out of the question.
She further added that the law will be in its place to provide the public with “unparalleled openness and transparency” with respect to the activities of the groups with the surveillance powers.
What is the Investigatory Powers Bill all about?
If this sounds new to you, well, the Investigatory Powers Bill is actually meant to give law enforcers the power to check into any connection records, whether its websites, applications and messaging services you’ve visited, just so as to get to know what you are up to in case of any security threats. However, this bill does not allow the enforcers to look at the individual messages sent or pages visited.
Furthermore, the said bill stipulates that telecommunications companies must have records of all the web history of all customers for at least year. The same companies must also come in whenever needed to help law enforcers gain access to any electronic device owned by a suspect. This is actually what is going on in the United States with respect to Apple, FBI and the San Bernardino terrorism case.
The FBI has been pushing Apple to help them access an iPhone recovered from one suspect in the shooting that took place in December last year. However, the iPhone maker is adamant that any such attempts will out other iPhone users at risk.
The Bill also allows security agencies to harvest any amount of information they can from online services. May thinks that terror groups and criminals have turned to online platforms when spreading their religion and as a result, those responsible for keeping the world safe must also keep up with the same pace in order to root these people out.
Even though civil liberties groups are strongly opposing the Investigatory Powers Bill, May wants it to become a law by the end of this year. The groups claim that the law will demean people’s fundamental right to privacy, which may result in a lawsuit. Apple has also received backing from Facebook, Google, Twitter and many other companies in line with the ongoing case vs. the FBI, with the companies airing the same views as those aired by these liberties groups in the UK.
None of this would deter the bill from passing its first hurdle in Parliament with a vote of 281-15. The next stage is for the bill to head into a committee where it will be further scrutinized.