Tech companies express fears over IPA amendment bill

07/11/2023 | Financial Times

Technology companies have expressed concerns about the extent of powers in the government's proposed amendment to the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 (IPA), which could permit the UK government to intervene and block the rollout of new privacy features for messaging applications. The bill, announced in the King's Speech on Tuesday, would require companies to inform the Home Office about any privacy or security features they plan to add to their platforms, including encryption. 

Under the current rules, the government has the ability to force messaging platforms and telecommunications providers to provide data for national security purposes and to assist with criminal investigations. The new legislation aims to "rebalance" these powers to address the risks posed to public safety by multinational tech companies offering services that "prevent lawful access to data". 

Meredith Whittaker, President of Signal Foundation, has called on ministers to provide greater clarity on the proposal amid fears that the legislation would enable officials to veto the introduction of new safety features. In a statement to the Financial Times, she said, "We will need to see the details, but what is being described suggests an astonishing level of technically confused government over-reach that will make it nearly impossible for any service, homegrown or foreign, to operate with integrity in the UK."

Earlier in the year, Signal, along with WhatsApp and Apple, warned the government that they would withdraw from the UK market if the child sexual abuse material (CSAM) scanning requirements contained in the Online Safety Bill were not changed. 

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