US tech companies express opposition to UK digital surveillance law

[JURIST] US-based tech companies Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo submitted evidence [text] on Friday of possible conflicts that may arise from the UK government's proposed Investigatory Powers Bill [text, PDF]. Should the bill pass, tech companies would be required [Verge report] to perform bulk data collections of all user activity within a 12-month period in order to help prevent terrorism, cyber bullying, and organized crime. Though such level of online surveillance has been banned in the US, Canada and other European countries, companies have expressed concern that the UK's controversial laws will have an international impact. The evidence submitted to the UK states that the draft bill's vague language would require tech companies to weaken encryption, thereby exposing users to significant security risks. The companies have proposed an international framework that does not require them to violate their obligations to other jurisdictions and their own user base.

Surveillance and data collection have been a worldwide topic of discussion, particularly after Edward Snowden leaked top-secret [JURIST report] US National Security Agency (NSA) documents in 2013. In December China passed a new anti-terrorism law [JURIST report] that requires technology companies to provide information to the government obtained from their products and make information systems "secure and controllable." In October the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit denied [JURIST report] a motion by the American Civil Liberties Union to halt the bulk collection of phone records by the NSA. The court ruled that Congress intended for the agency to continue its data collection over the transition period, and the new legislation was to take effect November 29. In August the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed [JURIST report] a ruling that had blocked the NSA from obtaining call detail records from US citizens. In July, MIT scientists published [JURIST report] a paper criticizing the US and UK governments for seeking the redesign of internet systems to allow governments to access information even if encrypted.

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