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security1The ‘snooper’s charter’ could neutralise the contribution of Britain’s digital economy, according to a representation of US tech corporations including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo.

In a collective submission to the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill Joint Committee they argue that surveillance should be “is targeted, lawful, proportionate, necessary, jurisdictionally bounded, and transparent.”

These principles, the collective informs the parliamentary committee, reflect the perspective of global companies that offer “borderless technologies to billions of people around the globe”.

The extraterritorial jurisdiction will create ‘conflicting legal obligations’ for them, the collective said. If the UK government instructs foreign companies what to do, then foreign governments may follow suit, they warn. A better long term resolution might be the development of an ‘international framework’ with ‘a common set of rules’ to resolve jurisdictional conflicts.

“Encryption is a fundamental security tool, important to the security of the digital economy and crucial to the safety of web users worldwide,” the submission said. “We reject any proposals that would require companies to deliberately weaken the security of their products via backdoors, forced decryption or any other means.”

Another area of concern mentioned is the bill’s proposed legislation on Computer Network Exploitation which, the companies say, gives intelligence services legal powers to break into any system. This would be a very dangerous precedent to set, the submission argues, “we would urge your Government to reconsider,” it said.

Finally, Facebook and co registered concern that the new law would prevent any discussion of government surveillance, even in court. “We urge the Government to make clear that actions taken under authorization do not introduce new risks or vulnerabilities for users or businesses, and that the goal of eliminating vulnerabilities is one shared by the UK Government. Without this, it would be impossible to see how these provisions could meet the proportionality test.”

The group submission joins other individual protest registered by Apple, EE, F-Secure, the Internet Service Providers’ Association, Mozilla, The Tor Project and Vodafone.

The interests of British citizens hang in a very tricky balance, according to analyst Clive Longbottom at Quocirca. “Forcing vendors to provide back door access to their systems and platforms is bloody stupid, as the bad guys will make just as much use of them. However, the problem with terrorism is that it respects no boundaries. Neither, to a greater extent, do any of these companies. They have built themselves on a basis of avoiding jurisdictions – only through such a means can they minimise their tax payments,” said Longbottom.

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