Apple says UK could ‘secretly veto’ global privacy tools

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Apple has attacked proposals for the UK government to pre-approve new security features introduced by tech firms.

Under the proposed amendments to existing laws, if the UK Home Office declined an update, it then could not be released in any other country, and the public would not be informed.

The government is seeking to update the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) 2016.

The Home Office said it supported privacy-focused tech but added that it also had to keep the country safe.

A government spokesperson said: “We have always been clear that we support technological innovation and private and secure communications technologies, including end-to-end encryption, but this cannot come at a cost to public safety.”

The proposed changes will be debated in the House of Lords tomorrow.

Apple says it is an “unprecedented overreach” by the UK government.

“We’re deeply concerned the proposed amendments to the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) now before Parliament place users’ privacy and security at risk,” said Apple in a statement.

“It’s an unprecedented overreach by the government and, if enacted, the UK could attempt to secretly veto new user protections globally preventing us from ever offering them to customers.”

The Home Office told the BBC: “It is critical that decisions about lawful access, which protect the country from child sexual abusers and terrorists, are taken by those who are democratically accountable and approved by Parliament.”

The existing Act has been dubbed a “snoopers charter” by critics and this is not the first time Apple has lashed out against proposals to increase its scope.

The tech giant said in July 2023 it would consider pulling services such as Facetime and iMessage from the UK rather than compromise future security.

But the proposed UK law would go beyond just FaceTime and iMessage to encompass all Apple products.

Earlier in January, civil liberties groups including Big Brother Watch, Liberty, Open Rights Group and Privacy International, put out a joint briefing opposing parts of the bill.

The groups said they were concerned the proposed changes would “force technology companies, including those based overseas, to inform the government of any plans to improve security or privacy measures on their platforms so that the government can consider serving a notice to prevent such changes”.

They added this would be “effectively transforming private companies into arms of the surveillance state and eroding the security of devices and the internet.”

These proposed amendments follow a review of the existing legislation and include a range of updates around the collection of data by intelligence agencies and the use of internet connection records.

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