Tim Cook: 'Dire Consequences' If Snooper's Charter Removes Encryption


Tim Cook has warned that aspects of the government's controversial 'Snooper's Charter' Investigatory Powers Bill could have 'dire consequences'.

Speaking exclusively to The Telegraph for the iPad Pro launch, Cook spoke on the subject of encryption and the importance of end-to-end encryption - a feature which Apple currently uses for emails, iMessage and its FaceTime video calls.

"To protect people who use any products, you have to encrypt. You can just look around and see all the data breaches that are going on. These things are becoming more frequent. They can not only result in privacy breaches but also security issues. We believe very strongly in end to end encryption and no back doors," said Cook.

While the new Investigatory Powers Bill doesn't ban encryption entirely (as many had originally feared), it does place a legal obligation on UK companies to assist the security services by providing unencrypted versions of the communications sent through its products.

The Apple CEO on the other hand has made privacy one of Apple's key themes with each product launch always featuring security as one of its underlying topics.

Cook famously delivered a cutting speech in favour of giving users back their privacy, calling on Silicon Valley to follow suite.

“Like many of you, we at Apple reject the idea that our customers should have to make tradeoffs between privacy and security, we can, and we must provide both in equal measure. We believe that people have a fundamental right to privacy. The American people demand it, the constitution demands it, morality demands it.”

While Apple will have no legal obligation to assist MI5 and MI6 under the IPB, the bill does specify that government agencies will try and reach an agreement with overseas companies that handle communications sent in this country.

Speaking to the Telegraph Cook points out that there's still a fundamental problem with opening up encrypted emails to governments.

“Any backdoor is a backdoor for everyone. Everybody wants to crack down on terrorists. Everybody wants to be secure. The question is how. Opening a backdoor can have very dire consequences.”

The new bill would give MI5 and MI6 remote hacking capabilities on phones and computers.

Cook remains optimistic though, believing that the public and press backlash to the bill will mean that the right decisions get made.

“I’m optimistic. When the public gets engaged, the press gets engaged deeply, it will become clear to people what needs to occur. You can't weaken cryptography. You need to strengthen it. You need to stay ahead of the folks that want to break it.”

The Investigatory Powers Bill, otherwise known as the 'Snooper's Charter' is a far-reaching piece of surveillance legislation which aims to bring all of the security services' spying powers under one piece of law.

It increases spying capabilities by forcing ISPs to keep a full year's worth of browsing data on every one of its customers while also increasing the abilities of MI5 and MI6 to actually remotely hack smartphones, computers and then download the information found on them.

In an effort to balance this, Theresa May has suggested a new 'Double Lock' system which means that any request to use one of these tools will require not only a signature by the Home Secretary but also approval from an independent Judicial Commissioner.

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