The fight for online privacy is heating up in the UK, where the Government is discussing the controversial Investigatory Powers Bill. And F-Secure, as both a security provider and a concerned corporate citizen, is declaring its opposition to this dangerous encroachment on people’s online privacy and security. The company has started an online petition that businesses can sign, which will serve as a collective warning to the Government about the damage the bill could cause to the British economy.
The bill is essentially the British Government’s attempt to seize power over people’s personal data by giving them the legal right to break the security software and procedures used to secure digital communications. In practice, this will mean forcing companies to provide the British Government with tools they can use to bypass security measures meant to protect data, which will give them access to things like personal messages, documents and other types of information people send over secure digital channels. In some cases, the Government could even force companies to build backdoors into software that the authorities can use to monitor and control devices like laptops and mobile phones.
What is little mentioned is the adverse effect this will have on British businesses. With the knowledge that the British Government can access encrypted data, customers will lose trust in their suppliers and take their business elsewhere. Industry revenues will drop, as will tax revenues. The point is, this isn’t just an argument about civil liberties. It will also effect the economy, which no one wants.
Security technologies like encryption are what lock the doors that protect digital data. It’s not a perfect system or a guarantee of privacy, but for the most part, it works pretty well. Edward Snowden has described it as “defense against the dark arts” for the digital world.
Snowden has also called pressure applied to companies to break security technologies, such as encryption, should be seen as an “insecurity mandate” – and warns that after one government successfully pressures companies to break their security, other governments will follow suite. Breaking technologies and pressuring companies to provide less security for their customers’ data is a slippery slope, and it’s not going to be easy to recover from, if it remains unchallenged.
The specifics of the Investigatory Powers Bill won’t be announced until next week, but F-Secure isn’t going to wait until it’s too late to stop the erosion of online privacy. We’ve drafted an open letter to the British Government lobbying it to consider the importance of protecting online privacy to the UK’s economy, and how attacking that privacy will undermine the trust customers place in online service providers.
F-Secure’s petition has already been signed by over 40 businesses, and was published earlier today in The Times. You can check it out by clicking here.
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