New Snoopers' Charter could force WhatsApp to weaken its security

Snoopers charter

A revised version of the Investigatory Powers Bill - dubbed by many as the "Snooper's charter" - has been published today, revealing extended powers for the police to access people's web and phone data.

The bill came under criticism for being too lax on privacy protections, something that Home Secretary Theresa May has responded to in some capacity, but many of the controversial proposed powers remain - and some have been widened.

The revised bill will let police access all internet browsing records in specific situations, where the original bill was more limiting to illegal sites and communications services. Powers for computer hacking have also been extended to cases in "preventing death or injury or damage to a person's physical or mental health."

Just as concerning, new proposed laws would also force tech companies to undermine security and break encryption, but only if it is "practicable" for them to do so. What's considered feasible remains to be seen, but the bill makes it clear that it will be taken on a case by case basis.

Problems ahead

There are other ambiguities. For example, the revised bill says that companies could only be forced to weaken security that they themselves have applied. So what about user-end encryption?

Encryption is a hot topic right now with the ongoing Apple vs FBI case, and while the Government is saying it isn't asking companies to undermine their encryption in general, it could still force companies like WhatsApp to install backdoors.

The bill will also require internet companies to keep a record of websites people have visited for 12 months. It's highly likely that it will face opposition from Internet Service Providers for this reason.

The Government plans to pass the bill by the end of the year. Some people have criticised Theresa May's haste, accusing her of trying to rush through these controversial new surveillance without greater consideration to its complexities.

Hugh Langley

Hugh Langley is the ex-News Editor of TechRadar. He had written for many magazines and websites including Business Insider, The Telegraph, IGN, Gizmodo, Entrepreneur Magazine, WIRED (UK), TrustedReviews, Business Insider Australia, Business Insider India, Business Insider Singapore, Wareable, The Ambient and more.

Hugh is now a correspondent at Business Insider covering Google and Alphabet, and has the unfortunate distinction of accidentally linking the TechRadar homepage to a rival publication.