UK’s Ban on Effective Encryption a Step Closer to Reality

| Analysis

It looks like British Prime Minister David Cameron is closer to following through on his promise to essentially outlaw digital privacy. New proposed laws are expected to be unveiled on Wednesday designed to force Apple, Google, and other tech companies to give the U.K. government ways to decrypt personal data such as text chats under the guise of protecting citizens from terrorists and criminals.

UK law would kill effective encryptionUK law would kill effective encryption

The requirements are part of the Investigatory Powers Bill, which demand companies include systems for decrypting what otherwise would be secure communications. That includes text and video chats, email, and anything else we do on our computers and smartphones with encryption.

For Apple, that means the British government expects to have access to our iMessage chats, FaceTime conversations, and other data that's encrypted when we lock our iPhones.

Mr. Cameron is pushing Parliament and the public to support the bill, according to the Telegraph, saying, "As Prime Minister I would just say to people please, let's not have a situation where we give terrorists, criminals, child abductors, safe spaces to communicate."

The standard argument for government back doors into our computers and smartphones always falls back to protecting us from terrorism and criminals, and also child protection. By giving evil doers a way to communicate with complete privacy, they say, ensures our cities will be bombed, our homes ransacked, family members killed, and our children kidnapped.

To be fair, all of those scenarios are possible, just as they were before smartphones. Giving governments access to our encrypted conversations could prevent some criminal acts or help track down suspects, but their demands that companies create these digital back doors means anyone can access our personal data. An open security hole isn't selective; governments, as well as the terrorists and criminals they're trying to stop, can use the same weaknesses to see our private conversations and data.

Forcing Apple and other companies to provide ways to decrypt our conversations poses another problem: How to change their products to accommodate the bill should it become law.

In Apple's case, that would likely mean fundamentally reworking the core of iOS 9 to reduce overall security, and massive changes to the back-end infrastructure for services like FaceTime and Messages. Apple included security and privacy as part of the foundation of its operating system and services, and changing that would equate to throwing that out and starting over.

Apple could refuse and stop selling iPhones in the UK, but that's not a realistic option. The company would face shareholder lawsuits, and ending sales sets a precedent Apple can't follow through on. Assuming the UK passes its law, other countries will follow, including the United States and China. Apple can't simply stop selling products in its top markets and expect to survive.

In essence, the UK is proposing laws that would leave us with only an illusion of encryption, and prohibiting effective encryption doesn't serve our best interests, protect privacy, or promote security.

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When governments outlaw privacy only outlaws will have privacy.

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Nice headline, Jeff. Had to read it twice. I think you should add “Alternative” in front of “Reality”.
I think Apple should threaten to stop selling in G. B. I think the backlash from the citizenry (not to mention businesses) would be enlightening to the pols there.


For every complex problem there is an answer
that is clear, simple, and wrong.
H. L. Mencken


Trying to be Orwellian are we.

Perhaps Apple and other companies should just stop doing business in the UK. That might be a bit of a stretch, but they certainly should not have to give up the security they have put in place.

If the government can get at everyones phones, then most certainly espionage will happen and the secrets will become available to others with more nefarious ideas.

And since governments often share information, this could be a round-about way of giving up the info to most any government they wish to share information with.



As odd as it sounds I’m not that worried about government espianage. Oh I don’t like it but I’m far more afraid of criminal activity. As soon as there’s a government backdoor criminals will be working very hard to attack it. Just yesterday there was an article about a group that put up a $1 million bounty on finding a way to hack iOS devices via a web site without user involvement.
Want to imagine what the reward would be for being able to hack any phone, computer, device, communication channel, or system anywhere in the world with one key would be. Mafiosi are drooling at the prospect.

Worse yet once the UK has this all the others will want one too.

Lee Dronick

As odd as it sounds I’m not that worried about government espianage. Oh I don’t like it but I’m far more afraid of criminal activity.

Same here though it depends on large part on which government.


Without clarification, UK in the headline could lead you to wonder why the University of Kentucky is worried about encryption. But then again, they don’t have a prime minister.

And STILL this is a bad move on their part.


I do worry about government espionage. When considering back doors for governments, I like to turn things about. What would I think of this idea if it was North Korea or Libya demanding it?

So I’m opposed to back doors for any government. I hope the big tech companies band together and tell David Cameron they will stop selling their products in the UK if such a law is passed. And let the public know as well.


Any proposed law would have to survive the House of Lords, the UK’s High Court and then the EU Courts. (Cant remember the name(s) of the EU courts)

Lets hope someone puts Mr Cameron back on his leash….

But there again, this is a Conservative Government, and the UK’s spooks and law enforcement are irrationally afraid of secrets that they aren’t a party to…..


I don’t see how Apple could possibly afford to   sell any unencryptable devices in the UK -  I’d certainly expect that it would be far easier & far more profitable to terminate Apple’s UK market for all its devices than to try to sell any unencrypted devices there.

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