Snooper’s Charter: Tech companies will have to give police ‘back-door’ access to customers’ data

Companies will not be allowed to tell customers if their messages are being shared with police

14 MARCH 2016 | BY Matt Broomfield FOR THE INDEPENDENT

Internet service providers and technology companies will be forced to install "back-door" flaws into their products, so British police and security services can access them on demand.

The move was announced in draft documents published in support of Theresa May's controversial Investigatory Powers Bill, announced in November 2015.

Police back door access data

The bill proposed by Home Secretary Theresa May has become known as the “Snooper’s Charter” AFP/Getty Images

Companies will also be banned from revealing whether they had been made to install “back-door” access routes, leaving customers unable to know whether their messages and search history are truly secure.

And if the draft documents are approved and the Bill known as the “Snoopers’ Charter” is passed in Parliament, the controversial measures will be partially paid for by British taxpayers.

The move, intended to prevent criminals and terrorists from networking and organising illegal activities online, follows a legal dispute between the FBI and technology company Apple over a similar issue.

An American court ruled that Apple had to help the FBI bypass encryption on an iPhone belonging to Syed Farook, one of the San Bernadino killers. Farook and his wife killed 14 people in a mass shooting in December 2015.

But Apple launched a highly-publicised appeal, arguing that while they could unlock the phone, it would set a dangerous precedent and compromise their customers’ privacy and security.

When announced, the Investigatory Powers Bill also sparked an immediate backlash from privacy campaigners. It requires internet and phone companies to store the search history of web users for a year and hand this information over to the police upon request, and made explicit for the first time the power of the police to hack phones and computers.

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