Apple Warns Proposed UK Law Could 'Secretly Veto' Global User Protections

Apple is "deeply concerned" that proposed changes to British surveillance legislation could give the U.K. government unprecedented powers to secretly prevent software updates from being released in any other country (via BBC News).

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The UK government is planning to update the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA), which came into effect in 2016 and allows the British Home Office to outlaw certain encrypted services by issuing something called a Technical Capability Notice (TCN).

Dubbed by critics as a "Snooper's Charter," the updated Act of Parliament could also allow the Home Office to decline security and privacy updates without telling the public.

The bill proposes changes including:

  • Creating a new condition for the use of internet connection records to aid "target detection."
  • Introducing an alternative, less stringent regulatory regime for the retention and examination of bulk personal datasets where individuals have little or no
    expectation of privacy (such as publicly available online telephone directories).
  • A new notification requirement which can be issued to selected
    telecommunications operators requiring them to inform the government of
    proposed changes to their products or services that could negatively impact the current ability of agencies to lawfully access data.

Apple opposes the requirement to inform the Home Office of any changes to product security features before they are released, the requirement for non-U.K.-based companies to comply with changes that would affect their product globally, and having to take action immediately if requested to disable or block a feature without review or an appeals process.

"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."

In a July 2023 letter to the Home Office, Apple argued that the proposed changes "would suppress innovation, stifle commerce, and — when combined with purported extraterritorial application — make the Home Office the de facto global arbiter of what level of data security and encryption are permissible."

The company also said it would consider pulling services such as FaceTime and iMessage from the U.K. rather than compromise future security.

Earlier this month, civil liberties groups including Big Brother Watch, Liberty, Open Rights Group and Privacy International, issued a joint briefing opposing aspects of the bill.

The groups said the proposed changed could "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."

"This would be effectively transforming private companies into arms of the surveillance state and eroding the security of devices and the internet," the groups added.

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

Note: Due to the political or social nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Political News forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

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Top Rated Comments

ric22 Avatar
24 weeks ago
It does make you wonder how long until the British government pass legislation so stupid that the likes of Apple have no option but to pull out of the British market...
Score: 41 Votes (Like | Disagree)
robotica Avatar
24 weeks ago
I live here and Apple should pull out entirely. It’s the only way these idiots in power will get it through their heads that it won’t work. Apple is in the position financially that it could do it, and should.
Score: 40 Votes (Like | Disagree)
springsup Avatar
24 weeks ago
The investigatory powers act is an awful piece of legislation. While the rest of the developed world is concerned more with data privacy, the U.K. cares more about surveillance.

When it comes to encryption, it’s clear that government thinks it can just legislate away a clear paradox. It’s truly moronic.

The U.K. has suffered a significant decline in the last 20 years. It didn’t start with Brexit. I’m so glad I left, and even as a Brit I would never go back. The standard of living is so much better in Europe, and despite their flaws, European governments are a bazillion times more competent than the British.
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
arkitect Avatar
24 weeks ago
This Tory government is out of touch and out of control.

If you think this is bad legislation, just read the UK news.

The sooner they're out the better.

Let’s get back in the EU! They’d never stand for this…ah wait ?
I think you're trying out a joke there.
Sorry if I fail to understand it.
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Kazgarth Avatar
24 weeks ago
Why on earth would someone support such law.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
arkitect Avatar
24 weeks ago

When terrorists, child grooming gangs, people smugglers, people traffickers and drug suppliers/dealers are able to use electronic devices with impunity due to electronic device manufacturers designing strong hardware and software encryption and security into their devices then governments will act to stop that impunity.

For generations the UK has suffered numerous terrorists acts by the IRA and still do to this day as well as terrorists acts by other groups and thus the UK government will do what is necessary to protect it's citizens. Apple and other manufacturers think they are doing everyone a favor by beefing up security in their devices but when that security is used to help cause death and destruction, governments and security services/authorities will act whether we like it or not.
Oh my, Grant Shapps, Priti Patel, Suella Bravermann and now, James not-so-Cleverly really love voters who think like this.
"Please ma'am, may we have less freedom? Priti please?"

Good grief.

To haul out the IRA (been keeping up with the news lately?) is just asinine.

Don't believe everything Rupert and his editors tell you.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)