Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter And Yahoo Refuse To Cooperate With UK's 'Snooper's Charter'

from the that's-a-bit-of-a-problem dept

A month ago, we wrote about how the UK’s infamous “Snooper’s Charter” had been scuppered by Nick Clegg, the UK’s Deputy Prime Minister. The Guardian now reveals that top Internet companies may have played a key role in this decision:

The five biggest internet companies in the world, including Google and Facebook, have privately delivered a thinly veiled warning to the home secretary, Theresa May, that they will not voluntarily co-operate with the “snooper’s charter”.

In a leaked letter to the home secretary that is also signed by Twitter, Microsoft and Yahoo!, the web’s “big five” say that May’s rewritten proposals to track everybody’s email, internet and social media use remain “expensive to implement and highly contentious”.

In the letter, originally posted online by the Guardian, but now taken down for some reason, the Internet companies write:

Although it seems that the revised Bill will address some of the concerns we and others raised in evidence to that [Parliamentary] Committee, we expect that the core premise of the Bill — to create a new form of retention order for the data of UK-based users of communications services — will remain highly contentious.

However, we also do not want there to be any doubt about the strength of our concerns in respect of the idea the UK government would seek to impose an order on a company in respect of services which are offered by service providers outside the UK.

The letter rather pointedly invokes efforts to promote online freedom around the world:

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office in particular has played a leading role in promoting the value of freedom of expression on the Internet on the global stage. This freedom of expression is intimately linked to the fact that the Internet services are offered globally unlike traditional media channels, which may be under different degrees of state control in many parts of the world. Key to being able to offer a global Internet service is the understanding that the service provider can work primarily within the legal framework of its home jurisdiction.

It then paints a picture of what might happen if other countries brought in their own Snooper’s Charter:

Service providers like ours can and do make reasonable accommodations to reflect local concerns and legal requirements including in the UK. But this is very different from a chaotic world within which every country seeks to impose potentially conflicting requirements on a global service provider in sensitive areas like the retention of personal data.

As the Guardian article explains:

The companies also detail an alternative approach to extend existing arrangements for them to meet the requests for personal data from the police and security services, including a new UK-US bilateral initiative to make the process faster and more efficient.

The letter concludes:

The Internet is still a relatively young technology. It brings enormous benefits to citizens everywhere and is a great force for economic and social development. The UK has rightly positioned itself as a leading digital nation. There are risks in legislating too early in this fast-moving area that can be as significant as the risks of legislating too late. We would urge you to follow the approach we have outlined above and see how far the needs of UK law enforcement can be met by improving existing legal instruments and treaties before making significant legislative changes.

This is a pretty significant move, underlined by the fact that traditional rivals have come together to form a common front against the UK government. If companies like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Twitter refuse to cooperate with the UK’s surveillance plans, it will make the scheme much more difficult to operate, particularly when it comes to spying on encrypted data streams.

Unfortunately, whereas the Snooper’s Charter looked pretty moribund a month ago, matters have been changed by the recent brutal murder of a soldier on London’s streets. This has led to a knee-jerk reaction from some, who have called for the Snooper’s Charter to be revived. But it turns out that the alleged attackers were already known to the UK’s secret services, which suggests that the extreme surveillance powers contained in the Snooper’s Charter are simply not necessary. Let’s hope that the main Internet companies stick to their line of non-cooperation, and that the UK government realizes that the Snooper’s Charter is not just pernicious, but unworkable.

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Comments on “Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter And Yahoo Refuse To Cooperate With UK's 'Snooper's Charter'”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Vaguely Related: Government Terror Keywords

?Revealed: Hundreds of words to avoid using online if you don’t want the government spying on you (and they include ‘pork’, ‘cloud’ and ‘Mexico’)?, by Daniel Miller, The Daily Mail, 26 May 2012

? The intriguing the list includes obvious choices such as ‘attack’, ‘Al Qaeda’, ‘terrorism’ and ‘dirty bomb’ alongside dozens of seemingly innocent words like ‘pork’, ‘cloud’, ‘team’ and ‘Mexico’.?

Random words: Salmonella State of Emergency Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources Islamist Mudslide Extremist IED Los Zetas Telecommunications Metro Exercise Disaster Assistance

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Vaguely Related: Government Terror Keywords

i have always advocated (since the days when echelon “didn’t exist”: funny the usual suspects who said everyone was paranoid about that shit have not apologized to all the people they smeared as koo koo kwazy k-k-k-konspiracy mongers, who turned out to be 200% correct), that ‘everyone’ append a list of ‘bad’ words to their emails, such that ‘all’ the email trips their filters: when ‘all’ the email contains ‘terrorist words’, then their filtering becomes useless…

dog damn i hate the people who are perverting our gummint…
hate’em! ! !

art guerrilla
aka ann archy

Anon E. Mous (profile) says:

The U.S. government is doing this as we speak, the U.K. wants to follow the U.S lead. India and Pakistan are doing this, as is Egypyt, China, North Korea, Russia and a few others as well.

Popel think it is only freedoms that you see or deal with in your dialy life that are being eroded, most don’t have a clue about the treasure trove of information you leave when your connected to things electronically.

You cell phone, your online use, your vehicles black box, your GPS… all odf it tracks your movements. A lot of people know this but there are far too many that don’t have a clue.

There are people who think Facebook is great because it allows you to do all this stuff for free. They never ask though how and what Facebook does with all the information that people put on their site.

Lots of people assume Facebook makes their money from the Ad’s you see, but they make more money from your information and the things you like etc.

Their is so much of a persons life that is used and disclosed that most have no idea about. Employers routinely sell their employees payroll information, how much you make an hour, what you make a pay period, what you make a year.

Those credit card offers you get in the mail even though you never applied for one with a bank or elsewhere, come from sources just like I mentioned.

Your cable co, your telephone company, your power company , your bank, all sell your information. So your offline life is up for grabs as much as your online electric life is.

Freedom of keeping your information private is becoming harder and harder to keep private, everywhere their are clauses in things you sign where someone has “we may disclose your information to 3rd parties in the course of our business” written and you sign without even knowing it most of the time.

The digital age allows things to get done easier but it put your information up for grabs that much easier. Digital privacy is under attack at all levels from the private sector to the government, everyone wants to believe all the freedoms are their and they are protected but each day those freedoms are under attack from all sides.

Don't think so says:

Re: Re:

I don’t think it’s as simple as your argument; they all have operations in this country and so would have some responsibility to adhere to any (crazy) law that’s enacted. Just like megaupload got fucked by the US even though most of their servers were abroad. Admittedly the World Police do seem to not GAF about enforcing domestic laws on foreign soil

Anonymous Coward says:

there are a couple of key points that stood out to me which were a new UK-US bilateral initiative and the recent killing of a soldier in the UK

as per usual, the USA is the driving force. it seems to be so rapped up in spying on everyone in it’s own nation and doing whatever it can to get other countries to do the same, that those outside the nations will be in a better position to get away with whatever dastardly deed they intend to try to pull off. the UK is so scared of upsetting the USA that it is making terrorists and enemies out of it’s own people instead of concentrating on trying to get what is needed on the real threats. the US is using the Boston incident as the driving force to reopen the CISPA debate. the UK is using the Woolwich incident to do the same with the ‘Snoopers Charter’. in both cases, info had already been gathered on the suspects. in the UK, one had been approached to work for MI5. the ‘spy on everyone doing everything, everywhere, with everyone else’ would not have stopped either incident and are just excuses being used, particularly by Theresa May in her rampant fear mongering, to get in laws that once in, will never serve any other purpose than create China-like countries out of what are supposed to be democracies. WRONG!!!! we preach ‘freedom and privacy’ but practice the exact opposite. what hope do we have of convincing countries that have very little in the way of respect for people when we are then doing the same as them? without the Internet, there are a lot of incidents that would have stayed hidden. yes, there are also things that have come out about how some in powerful positions in democratic countries are disrespecting their positions and their power. the are probably the driving force on this matter. dont let them have their way and turn this world into a corporate run one. let it be run ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’. this is the only world we have. dont let certain power-hungry arse holes fuck it up! once it’s gone, it aint comin’ back!!

The Real Michael says:

“Unfortunately, whereas the Snooper’s Charter looked pretty moribund a month ago, matters have been changed by the recent brutal murder of a soldier on London’s streets. This has led to a knee-jerk reaction from some, who have called for the Snooper’s Charter to be revived.”

It’s no coincidence how whenever some bad event occurs, the end result always involves government attempting to acquire more powers and always at the expense of people’s liberty and privacy. Why should everybody in the UK have to sacrifice their privacy because of the actions of a couple of deranged lunatics?

As for those companies refusing to comply, I’m not buying this PR stunt. It’s already common knowledge that these websites fork over all sorts of sensitive personal info to government agencies, so who are they fooling? They’re just trying to cover their asses so that their users won’t abandon ship. “Yeah, we’re looking out for your best interests.” Sure you are.

Anonymous Coward says:

On a realty bases one has mixed emotions about snooping.

On the Mushroom Cloud level plus Biological and Chemical (formerly known as ABC: Atomic, Biological, & Chemical) Warfare level, governments need to do all they can do to prevent such action, including snooping. During the depth of the Cold War MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) preserved the peace. In the ear of infahad MAD is impossible as the opposition has shown more than a willingness to commit suicide in order to destroy their opposition. The only possible response is to get them before they get you and to make damn sure the wackos do not obtain ABC weapons. Freedom is not a group suicide pack.

On a individual bases for basic civil rights snooping is a horror designed to produce the perfect totalitarian society. “1984” (as described in the book) has arrived.

How can governments resolve the ABC conflict with totalitarianism and still maintain a free society is the question.

Zakida Paul (profile) says:

I posted this on The Guardian so I may as well post it here

Every liberty we give up hands a massive victory to our enemies because that is exactly what they want.

Also, this sort of surveillance does not make the public safer, it merely creates the illusion of security. The loss of freedom and privacy is too high a price to pay for an illusion and I might add “They who give up essential liberty to purchase temporary security deserve neither liberty nor security”.

All this legislation will do is make people afraid of their government which is wrong. People should never fear their government, the government should fear the people.

Finally, to those going on about Facebook/Google etc privacy, you have a choice about whether or not to use the services of those countries. You can avoid them. You will not be able to avoid government surveillance.

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