When it comes to modern day communication, the messaging apps WhatsApp and iMessage really do rule the waves. In fact, WhatsApp have just celebrated reaching ONE BILLION subscribers – an incredible milestone. That said, it seems the celebrations may be coming to an end.
The Investigatory Powers Bill (or, Snoopers’ Charter), is to be passed by the UK government after some controversial re-drafts, and not only will it allow the Government to weaken the security of many communication platforms, but it could also outlaw many of the most popular chat services as they currently exist.
Put simply, this is a bill that will cripple the current state of WhatsApp and iMessage. The bill was re-drafted after it received heavy criticism by every parliamentary committee responsible for scrutinising it. However, many of its most controversial and influential powers are still intact.
This new draft of the Investigatory Powers Bill will include a clause that will force technology companies to weaken their security when spies need it to. That includes the removal of end-to-end encryption – which is the technology that allows our messaging apps such as WhatsApp, iMessage and FaceTime to allow us to communicate to one another privately and securely.
That said, the government have said that they have responded to the concerns about the weakening of encryption, and stated that it would no longer force them to weaken encryption – and only force companies to weaken security that they themselves installed.
But the new law could still force companies to install “backdoors” in their own security systems, undermining the technology used within many of the most popular chat apps.
Charities, such as Privacy International, have hit out against the bill, arguing that no real changes had been made to guarantee people’s security. Gus Hosein, the executive director of Privacy International, provided the following statement to The Independent;
”It would be shameful to even consider this change cosmetic. The Bill published today continues to adhere to the structure and the underlying rationale that underpinned the draft IP Bill, despite the criticism and lengthy list of recommendations from three Parliamentary Committees.
The continued inclusion of powers for bulk interception and bulk equipment interference – hacking by any other name – leaves the right to privacy dangerously undermined and the security of our infrastructure at risk. Despite this, the Home Office stands by its claim that the Bill represents “world-leading” legislation. It is truly world-leading, for all the wrong reasons.”
And it doesn’t stop there.
The bill also requires that internet companies keep a record on everything their users have looked at for an entire year, allowing the government to then access that information.
These changes will mean more and more people within the government can gain access to these records – such as law enforcement officials who are pursuing “investigative leads”.
Put simply, if the government wanted to put the full powers of this bill into effect, this could lead to the outlawing of many of the world’s most popular and successful messaging services, or force products including Apple’s iOS, to be re-written from scratch.
It has been reported that many of the top technology companies are now worried that the powers to weaken encrypted chat services could start a chain reaction which could lead to them also being instated by other countries with fewer protections. The UK Government is hoping to pass the bill by the end of the year.
So what do you think? Is this “Big Brother” gone mad, and just another opportunity for the government to keep an eye on millions of innocent people? Or are these changes necessary, which would lead to the government ultimately saving lives, and overthrowing plots against the wellbeing of others?