Deliberations in parliament this week have led to plans to fast track the Investigatory Powers Bill as a direct response to the Paris terrorist attacks.
The government has been arguing that it should rush the bill through parliament as a response to Paris, claiming that it is necessary to prevent something similar occurring in London. Whether this bill, dubbed the ‘Snoopers’ Charter’ by critics, will increase public safety is much debated. However, there are other factors to consider, such as the effect of such a bill on a weakening UK economy and, more specifically, its impact on its technology sector.
Businesses’ data is often their most valuable asset, and any leaks can be embarrassing, damaging and sometimes disastrous. By complying with the bill in its current form, companies will have to cede access to their most valuable asset to the government – something that many are not willing to do. Some businesses have decided that the bill is a fait accompli and already relocating their headquarters from the UK, resulting in lost tax revenues and lost jobs. If this bill really is passed, the situation is only going to worsen.
Technology companies and service providers are also facing substantial costs to implement the requirements of the bill. They will in the future face higher costs for data retention, storage and security – which many smaller businesses will not be able to afford. This will, once again, result in lost corporate taxes and higher unemployment.
Before fast-tracking the bill – in fact, before enforcing the bill at any point in time – there needs to be a thorough cost–benefit analysis. And that should include unintended consequences – for instance, the government could inadvertently cripple what could be a world leading technology sector.
We have recently launched our Pryvate™ encryption app and fully expect to see an increase in subscriptions and users as a result of the bill.
We know that many companies are discussing how they can look to their security, and many are naturally seeking solutions that provide the strongest possible encryption as the value of goods in the digital marketplace becomes increasingly uncertain. And naturally, many users are seeing the benefit of encryption that ensures there is no ‘middle man’ server, so no data to be disclosed upon anyone’s request. The provision of unique encryption keys can ensure that all communication (email, voice calls, instant messaging or text) remains totally private. At present, the government has ruled out making app developers provide back doors for this type of software, making it the most secure way to communicate.
There is no doubt that, should the Investigatory Powers Bill be passed, there will be some companies (mainly the larger ones with overseas operations) that decide to relocate to other countries. For smaller businesses, the prevalence of apps such Pryvate™ is likely to become commonplace as they look for cost-effective solutions to ensure the integrity of their most important asset – their data.
We would agree strongly that there does need to be an updating and an expansion of legislation to bring it into the digital age. However, this should not override every UK citizen’s hard-fought right to privacy, nor erode the security environment that businesses need to thrive.
The government must consider the damage that it could do to the UK economy before proceeding with the bill. It’s important that it not respond to Paris in a way that will so little or no good to national security, but will destroy both people’s and business’ right to privacy.
Jonathan Parker-Bray is chief executive of Criptyque and Pryvate Now
Cryptique is a software company that has recently launched an end-to-end encryption app called Pryvate™ that secures all of your daily digital communications, including voice calls, instant messaging, email and text messages. Encrypted web browsing will also be added to the app’s functionality in the near future.
As the company has no access to a user’s encryption keys, there is no middle man, and so no possibility that information could be leaked or hacked in any way. The app sits on the user’s devices and provides unique encryption keys for each message or call, both of which are generated on sending or receiving a message using the app.
The Pryvate™ app provides seamless security integration on an enterprise level and is currently the strongest encryption software on the market. The app works across 3G and 4G networks as well as via Wi-Fi and can offer your business the added security that it is likely to need in the coming weeks and months.