U.K. House of Commons passes controversial, if slightly watered down, surveillance bill

The U.K. House of Commons has passed a controversial bill giving spy agencies the power to engage in bulk surveillance and computer hacking, but ceded some ground to protests from the technology industry (such as Apple) and civil liberty groups, reports Bloomberg.

The bill was introduced by the Conservative Party-led government in March after modifications to address concerns from tech companies and privacy advocates. It passed by a vote of 444 to 69. Most of the opposition Labour Party voted with the conservative majority to advance the bill to the House of Lords, while the opposition Scottish National Party, citing concerns about privacy and civil rights, voted against it.

The legislation was criticized by global technology companies when it was first proposed last year. For example, Apple CEO Tim Cook warned of "dire consequences" if the bill passed with language weakening encryption. According to Bloomberg, the version of the bill passed Tuesday makes clear that companies aren’t required to build backdoors to their encryption and will only be required to remove such code in response to a government request if doing so is technically feasible and not unduly expensive.