Why tech firms hate new UK surveillance law

uk tech surveillance

Britain is planning a new internet surveillance law and big technology companies hate it.

Facebook (FB), Google (GOOG), Twitter (TWTR), Microsoft (MSFT) and Yahoo (YHOO) have joined forces to protest a number of provisions in legislation now passing through parliament.

Dubbed a "snoopers' charter" by critics, the law would force internet service providers and phone companies to retain huge amounts of customer data that could be accessed by British security services, once a judge has reviewed their request.

"No business should be compelled to generate and retain data that it does not ordinarily generate," the firms wrote in a submission to parliament made public this week. They said the law will undermine trust among their customers.

Apple (AAPL) submitted its own complaint in December. It said the law would require tech firms to build back doors that would let both law enforcement and hackers snoop on customers' private conversations.

Related: Tech firms meet U.S. officials to talk terrorists on social media

The British government says the new law is needed to track terrorists, pedophiles and other criminals. But it has already revised the legislation significantly after receiving a flood of complaints, introducing more judicial oversight and narrowing its scope.

It says the law "will not ban encryption or do anything to undermine the security of people's data."

Related: Microsoft will alert you if a government hacks your accounts

Tech companies say the revisions don't go far enough.

"We reject any proposals that would require companies to deliberately weaken the security of their products," the big five U.S. firms said.

And they're not just worried about their British customers. They warned that the U.K. is setting a precedent which could be followed by authoritarian regimes in other countries, leading to the arrest or intimidation of their employees "in an attempt to force an overseas corporation to disclose user information."

The companies also intend to inform their customers when the U.K. wants access to their data, unless the government can provide a compelling case not to.

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