Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG) and other technology companies have a wealth of information about their users. As a result, U.K. lawmakers say they could potentially do something to stop major acts of terrorism before they happen.
Cameron slams tech companies
Bloomberg reports that U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said major technology companies should have reported a message sent by one of the two men who were convicted of murdering soldier Fusilier Lee Rigby in broad daylight last year. Michael Adebowale reportedly sent a message that said he wanted to “murder a soldier in the most graphic and emotive manner.”
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A U.K. parliamentary committee said a technology company did not turn over that message to police. The committee did not identify which company it was in the report it issued today. Intelligence agencies in the U.K. were cleared of not preventing Rigby’s murder even though both Adebowale and the other man convicted in the crime, Michael Adebolajo, were already being watched by multiple agencies.
Apple, Google’s social responsibilities
Cameron said today that internet companies like Google and Apple should offer more assistance to intelligence agencies to keep acts of terrorism like Rigby’s gruesome murder from happening. He said it is technology companies’ “social responsibility” to report information like the message Adebowale sent before Rigby was killed.
Lawmakers in the U.K. are planning to introduce legislation that requires internet companies to hand over data about their users to the authorities. If the law passes, the companies would have to keep information about IP addresses, which identify computers and devices, and hand the data over to law enforcement upon request.
A spokesperson for human rights group Liberty accused the parliamentary committee of “shamefully” spinning “the facts seeking to blame the communications companies for not doing he agencies’ work for them.”
Apple, others called out by lawmakers
Malcolm Rifkind, chief of Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee called out several technology companies, saying that if the company in this case had reported Adebowale’s message, Rigby’s death could have been prevented. In addition to naming Google and Apple, he also mentioned Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR), and Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO).
The company over which the message was sent reportedly shut down accounts that were in Adebowale’s name because of content related to terrorism or links to the accounts of terrorists. The Parliamentary company said those accounts were closed automatically because they triggered the closures. However, a human never reviewed the accounts, and the information was never passed on to law enforcement.