Apple’s Encryption Fight Turns To The UK

Apple’s Encryption Fight Turns To The UK

After a major victory in the United States, Apple is facing an another threat to its encryption efforts on a different front: the United Kingdom.

The Cupertino-based tech giant typically shies away from taking firm stances on specific legislation and works through lobbying groups representing technology companies’ interests. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook today told students in Dublin that the company is opposed to a new British proposal that would require it to provide law enforcement with access to encrypted data.

Cook said creating a so-called backdoor for law enforcement would expose personal data to hackers.

“If you leave a back door in the software, there is no such thing as a back door for good guys only,” Cook said, according to Reuters. “If there is a back door, anyone can come in the back door.”

Cook’s statements have been backed up by privacy and technology experts. This summer, a group at MIT reported government limits on encryption would present risks.

Cook also said the British bill in its current form is vague. He said at the same event that it is not clear how Apple has to comply.

The Brtish bill, known as the Investigatory Powers Bill, would make explicit in law for the first time that law enforcement can hack and bug computers and phones, and it obliges companies to help officials bypass encryption.

Apple began encrypting its smartphones by default in 2014 with the introduction of iOS 8. Law enforcement in the United States has rallied against the update, claiming it would prevent them from obtaining information key to solving investigations.

However the White House has said it will not take a firm stance against encryption. Though the debate has continued heavily in the Capitol Hill hearing rooms, the U.S. Congress has not proposed any legislative solutions to the encryption debate.

The danger of the U.K.’s current proposal does not lie just in the privacy and security risks it presents to British citizens, but in the global precedent such a law would set. If the U.K. passes a law that requires that law enforcement be able to access encrypted data with a warrant, what’s to stop China or Russia from passing a similar law?

Apple hasn’t backed down on encryption since this issue first bubbled up last year. Though it’s been able to hold its own in the debate over encryption, this is the first time it will have to fight a bill targeting this practice.


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