Summary: Eris Industries’ position is that this proposed bill would impinge vital and legitimate business interests of our company. As such we will be relocating staff out of the United Kingdom until further clarity on the provisions of the bill is achieved.
We would encourage anyone else who opposes this bill to join
- us; and
- another UK startup, ind.ie,
in committing to leave the UK if it is passed into law or, at the very least, to sign this petition being organised by the Open Rights Group.
The Government’s proposed re-introduction of the Communications Data Bill, or “Snooper’s Charter,” this week will include, according to reporting in the Telegraph and elsewhere, a mandatory requirement to include cryptographic back-doors which can be accessed by MI5 and other government agencies.
Eris Industries’ business is industrial cryptography. This legislation, if passed, is likely to prevent our technology’s use in myriad industrial applications, including financial services, which need reliable, open-source cryptography desperately if they are to stay competitive in a digital age.
The proposals contained in the Queen’s Speech were first introduced by the Conservative component of the Coalition government in January of this year. In response to these proposals, at the time Eris Industries promised we would leave the country if the proposals were introduced as legislation, as reported in both the Guardian and City AM. We have also publicly opposed the proposals on both Radio 5 and Euronews.
The surveillance powers the government is asking Parliament to pass are completely unnecessary and, more often than not, are justified by statistics which have little basis in fact and which the Government appears to draw from thin air.
If there were any indication that the terrorists in the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, which precipitated the Government’s first attempt to introduce this bill this year, or indeed those in 9/11, had used encryption to carry out their attacks, which they did not, maybe we would agree with the Government’s proposals. The fact is, however, that cryptography overwhelmingly protects legal businesses and ordinary people, not criminals and terrorists, from harm. Strong cryptography should therefore remain entirely free and legal.
If this Bill is passed into law, we are likely to see a mass exodus of tech companies and financial services firms alike from the United Kingdom. We are happy to lead by example.
In keeping with our promise in January to leave the country if the Conservatives were returned to power with this policy on their legislative agenda, we have promptly ordered all of our staff to depart from the United Kingdom until such time as further clarity with respect to this bill has been achieved.
Additionally, with immediate effect, we have temporarily moved our corporate headquarters to New York City, where open-source cryptography is firmly established as protected speech pursuant to the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, until such time as we can be certain that the relevant provisions of the Communications Data Bill will be stricken from it (otherwise, we will reincorporate in America and continue our business here).
Please note that we do not expect this to cause any interruption to the services we currently provide. We will continue to do business with UK firms and UK branch offices of international firms.
From our new base in the United States which will be either temporary or permanent pending the outcome of the bill, we will continue to build useful, open source, and free-of-charge developer tools to enable a more secure, more efficient, and freer world. Attempting to curtail progress and free expression in the manner the UK Government proposes to do is a struggle it is certain to lose.