National Security

Apple fights to stop UK surveillance bill

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Tech giant Apple is pushing back against a proposal from the United Kingdom that would give law enforcement greater access to online data and encrypted communications.

The Silicon Valley company on Monday submitted eight pages of comments to the British Parliamentary Scrutiny Committee about a proposed Investigatory Powers bill that would require companies to supply information about people’s online activity and retain the ability to crack their encryption.

{mosads}The government argues the measure is a necessary tool in the fight against terrorism. In the wake of the deadly attacks in Paris, governments have sought greater access to digital communications, which they say could help them uncover potential plots earlier.

But Apple, as it has many times before, strongly rejected this argument.

Retaining an ability to crack encryption for the good guys also leaves open a door for the bad guys, the company said.

“We believe it would be 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,” Apple said.

“In this rapidly evolving cyber-threat environment, companies should remain free to implement strong encryption to protect customers,” it added.

Apple and most tech firms have said that requiring companies to decrypt their own data destroys the purpose of encryption: keeping data out of hackers’ hands. The only form of secure encryption, they say, is one that makes data inaccessible to even the company itself.

Apple has said its latest operating system doesn’t allow the company access to iMessages, for instance.

“The best minds in the world cannot rewrite the laws of mathematics,” Apple said.

The comments are Apple’s latest in a heated debate over encryption that has flared up since the terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.

Lawmakers in the U.S. and several European countries have used both incidents to pressure tech companies to work more closely with governments on tracking potential terrorists.

Legislators in several countries, including the U.S., have called for bill similar to the Investigatory Powers measure, which was introduced last month.

The topic has even become a focal point of the U.S. presidential race, coming up in both the most recent Democratic and Republican debates.

Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton has encouraged Silicon Valley to work with Washington on finding a non-legislative solution. Several leading GOP candidates have advocated potential legislative measures to help law enforcement circumvent encryption.

In its filing, Apple insisted robust encryption is needed to counter growing digital threats, such as hacks and cyberattacks.

“Without strong defense, these attacks have the potential to impose chaos, and threaten our way of life, economic stability and infrastructure,” the letter said. “Increasingly stronger — not weaker — encryption is the best way to protect against these threats.”

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