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The committee noted: “Apple and other communications companies have expressed concerns about whether the draft Bill might require them to adopt weaker standards of encryption. Apple have also reportedly stated that the draft Investigatory Powers Bill could be a catalyst for other countries to enact similar measures, leading to significant numbers of contradictory country-specific laws.”As former MP for Cambridge, Dr Julian Huppert, noted, it is “unclear what would happen if a court were to be asked to take action against an operator who was unable to comply with this power because of the fundamental nature of their product: Any decentralised communications system is likely to render this clause impossible to comply with.”The Government needs to do more to allay unfounded concerns that encryption will no longer be possible.
The Home Office told the committee that communications service providers would be expected to serve up plaintext data when ordered to do so. The report understood that this “would not apply to content that is encrypted end-to-end before being passed to the communications provider for transmission: ‘What has to be removed is the electronic protection that the service-provider itself has put on the message. It is not removing encryption; it is removing electronic protection.”

The report concluded that the Government “should clarify and state clearly in the Codes of Practice that it will not be seeking unencrypted content in such cases, in line with the way existing legislation is currently applied.”Blackwood herself concurred: “Encryption is important in providing the secure services on the internet we all rely on, from credit card transactions and commerce to legal or medical communications. It is essential that the integrity and security of legitimate online transactions is maintained if we are to trust in, and benefit from, the opportunities of an increasingly digital economy.”She asserted that: “The Government needs to do more to allay unfounded concerns that encryption will no longer be possible.”The report also considers "equipment interference" – hacking – and notes that it “encompasses a wide range of activity from remote access to computers to downloading covertly the contents of a mobile phone during a search.” Such interference has been consistently defended in in an environment increasingly featuring the widespread use of cryptography.In his submission, the University of Cambridge’s Ross Anderson acknowledged that the “right way to get around encryption is targeted equipment interference, and that is hack the laptop, the phone, the car, the Barbie doll or whatever of the gang boss you are going after, so that you get access to the microphones, to the cameras, and to the stored data. The wrong way to do it is bulk equipment interference.”

The report cited Big Brother Watch, which noted that “weakening a system does not mean that only law enforcement or the intelligence agencies can exploit it—’The system can be exploited by anyone who uncovers the weakness, including malicious actors, rogue states, or non-Government hackers’.”We believed the industry case regarding public fear about ‘equipment interference’ is well founded.
Alarmingly clause 99 of the Snoopers’ Charter would oblige domestic communication service providers to assist the Government in its hacking activities, while clause 102 wold make it a criminal offence for “any person employed for the purposes of the business of the relevant telecommunications provider” to disclose “any steps taken in pursuance” of this assistance.According to industry witnesses, this offence would be inevitable for companies who open source their code, and thus were unable to conceal anything which had been tampered with from the public. The committee reported that it believed “the industry case regarding public fear about ‘equipment interference’ is well founded.”As such, the committee recommended that the new Investigatory Powers Commissioner should report to the public on the extent to which these measures are used for security reasons, and should also “carefully monitor public reaction to this power.”

Blackwood said: “It is vital we get the balance right between protecting our security and the health of our economy.We need our security services to be able to do their job and prevent terrorism, but as legislators we need to be careful not to inadvertently disadvantage the UK’s rapidly growing Tech sector.”Years ago, we were told that mass democratic participation was was going to be revolutionised by the web. One click was all it would take to effect change – if only enough people clicked. We would tweet truth to power. Instead of arranging to see an elected representative, we could fill in a handy web form. The future belonged to the web savvy, and their “swarm intelligence”. Against this, The Man wouldn’t stand a chance!Three examples this week suggest otherwise, reminding us that robo-responses are zapped faster than any shredder in the world can destroy paper.Last week the UK government ripped up a public consultation into the future of the BBC because almost all the responses came from one source, the pressure group 38 Degrees. The group claims to have 3 million members and organises campaigns on a range of Left-leaning issues, describing itself modestly thus:

“38 Degrees is the angle at which snowflakes come together to form an avalanche – together we’re unstoppable.”
The group generated 177,000 ranty emails to the Ministry of Fun*, warning Culture Minister John Whittingdale not to “rip the heart out of the BBC”.38 Degrees didn’t put any checks in place to stop people sending multiple letters. DCMS had to pull 25 staff from their normal duties to deal with the robotically assisted avalanche, or 10,000 man-hours of work. Eventually 92 per cent of all the responses for the consultation were sourced via 38 Degrees. Whittingdale decided this was unrepresentative, scrapped the consultation, and has started it all over again.The EU this week binned thousands of responses to a copyright consultation generated by a Canadian lobbying group OpenMedia, a groupuscule funded by Canada’s technology industry. In December, OpenMedia declared that the European Commission was going to “copyright the hyperlink” and urged people to submit a roboform to “Save The Link”. Scared out of their wits, 75,000 people did just that.The problem was that the scare was entirely bogus. Even academics hostile to copyright declared that the EU wasn’t proposing anything of the sort. The protections safeguarding publishers large and small would remain intact.

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