UK drops encryption backdoor requirements from cybersecurity bill due to Apple pressure

The U.K. has passed a bill giving its spy agencies wide-reaching powers to hack computer systems and engage in bulk surveillance, but protests from Apple and other technology companies kept out requirements for weakened encryption, Bloomberg reports. Tim Cook expressed concerns that there would be “dire consequences” if the bill passed as it was first offered, with language mandating access points that subverted encryption to provide government access. The law allows for collecting metadata and using malware to infiltrate the computers and mobile phones of terror suspects, but makes it clear that companies aren’t responsible for building backdoors into their encryption. Under the law, companies will only be required to remove encryption at the government’s request if it’s “technically feasible and not unduly expensive.” How those provisions will be interpreted by British judges going forward is an open question.
During its fight with the FBI, Apple argued that the time and cost required to break into a terrorist’s iPhone was an undue burden on the company. Since then, U.S. laws have been drafted that would compel companies to subvert their encryption for the government, but they have met strong opposition and none have been passed.

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