TECH

Theresa May: The 'Snoopers' Charter' Will Not Ban Encryption

14/01/2016 09:22 GMT | Updated 14/01/2016 11:59 GMT

The Home Secretary Theresa May has confirmed that the controversial Investigatory Powers Bill or the 'Snoopers' Charter' will not ban the encryption that is currently used on WhatsApp or iMessage.

theresa may

Speaking at a Draft Investigatory Powers Bill Select Committee, the Home Secretary said: "We believe encryption is important, we are not proposing to make any changes to encryption and the legal position around that."

May did however then follow this up with a somewhat contradictory statement which suggests that even though they wouldn't be banning encryption, the government would expect companies to still be able to obtain those messages and give them to the relevant authorities.

"We’re not saying that we want keys to their encryption. The government doesn’t need to know what the encryption is, but if there’s a lawful warrant it’s about that information being readable." said May.

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This presents companies like Facebook or Apple with something of a conundrum. As Apple has said on regular occasions, the type of end-to-end encryption it uses means that even it can't see the contents of the messages that its users send, making it impossible to share the contents with services like GCHQ.

May went on to say that companies should take "reasonable steps to comply with that warrant", and "in a form which is legible for the authorities."

During the hearing May also refused to rule out the surveillance of specific network locations including the WiFi in hospitals or libraries.

coffee shop

Coffee shops, hospitals and even libraries would all be required to adhere to data retention notices.

The Home Secretary argued that "as soon as you start excluding data sets it sends messages towards those who want to do us harm."

This all-encompassing approach will mean that every business from small coffee shops to massive multi-national corporations will be required to provide data when served with a retention notice.

When questioned over whether it was right for smaller businesses to foot the bill May responded saying that the government would have a full cost-recovery program in place.

There has been a considerable backlash to the bill from content service providers such as Apple with Tim Cook in particular strongly speaking out against any form of 'back door' into encryption.

The CEO warned of 'dire consequences' if it were passed into law that companies would have to remove encryption in order to comply.