Government Wants Power To Demand Tech Giants Release Encrypted Data

Government will be looking for Parliament to approve new order that could force technology companies to hand over their encrypted data, after the snap election is over.

The Sun claims to have learnt that the government will ask Parliament to nod through the Technical Capability Notices, which if approved would give authorities such as the police and MI5 the means to insist the likes of Facebook remove the encryption it applies to messages on its WhatsApp service, providing those messages belong to suspects.

The Technical Capability Notices are reportedly due to be presented to Parliament soon after June 8.

Encryption debate

The move appears to be motivated by the Manchester Arena bombing, with the idea that access to encrypted messages will help the security services better tackle terror threats.

However, there has been a lot of resistant from technology companies over such moves by governments, with the battle between Apple and the FBI over unlocking an iPhone belonging to the one of the gunmen in the San Bernardino shootings.

The Liberal Democrats voiced their opposition to any attempt to undermine encryption in their manifesto for the upcoming election in a document published before the attacks.

Despite the controversy behind the resistance technology companies show towards demands for data and backdoors into their services and products by various governmental organisations, the tech industry on the whole stands firmly on the side of maintaining their customers desired privacy and data protection, even if encrypted services can allow for criminals and terrorists to communicate easily and privately.

In the case of Apple verses the FBI, the Cupertino company ramped up its iOS encryption as a result of flak from the US federal agency.

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The FBI eventually cracked into the gunman’s iPhone but did it without the cooperation or approval of Apple.

But is Parliament passed the Technical Capability Notices and enshrines into law the ability to demand that technology companies lift the encryption applied to the communications of crime or terror suspects, companies like Apple and Facebook may find it harder to offer 100 percent encrypted and private services to their users.

However, we would suspect that even if the Technical Capability Notices become law, the financial, legal and influential clout of some tech giants will see demands to lift encryption battled in the courts to the bitter end.

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Roland Moore-Colyer

As News Editor of Silicon UK, Roland keeps a keen eye on the daily tech news coverage for the site, while also focusing on stories around cyber security, public sector IT, innovation, AI, and gadgets.

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