Operators slam Government’s proposed “Snooper’s Charter”

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Vodafone warns proposed law could undermine trust, while EE claims it could be forced to redesign its network if draft bill is approved

Some of the mobile industry’s biggest names have slammed the government’s proposed surveillance laws, warning they could lead to back door access to equipment and force network redesigns.

The Investigatory Powers Bill – more commonly known as the Snooper’s Charter – could undermine trust in the mobile industry, Vodafone claimed in a submission to the joint committee looking at the proposed bill.

“A balance needs to be struck between protecting the UK from terrorists and criminals whilst ensuring the vast majority of law abiding members of society have the right for their private information to be protected,” Vodafone wrote.

EE also said it had some concerns around Home Secretary Theresa May’s proposals, which seek to update legislation that determines police and security forces’ access to communications data. May claims this will help the government battle the rising threat of terrorism.

In it’s submission, EE said the proposals could “force EE to re-design its networks to meet the obligations for collection and retention at the expense of efficiency and speed.”

It also raised question over a £174 million figure the Home Office claims it will cost to implement the proposals.

Encryption

Since the reforms were first introduced in November, the UK Government has come under fire from tech firms and civil liberty groups and even the UN.

Part of the legislation calls for providers to include backdoors in encrypted data so intelligence services can access the information.

Over-the-top messaging services such as Apple’s iMessage and Whatsapp use encryption, with Apple last month calling on the government to scale back the powers.

“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.”

Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and Twitter’s also submitted joint evidence to the committee of MPs and Lords scrutinising the draft law.

“Even where these authorities do not apply to overseas providers like our companies, we are concerned that some of the authorities contained in the Bill, as currently drafted, represent a step in the wrong direction,” the combined submission said.

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