This article was published on July 21, 2023

New UK law could spark ‘default surveillance of everyone’s devices’

Enforcement could become politically motivated

New UK law could spark ‘default surveillance of everyone’s devices’

New laws proposed in the UK could normalise surveillance of personal devices, experts have warned.

The concerns stem from a planned update to the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA). When the original rules passed in 2016, critics described them as the “most extreme spying powers ever seen.” They’re now set to become even more intrusive.

Under the new proposals, messaging services would have to clear security features with the government before releasing them. The Home Office could also demand that features are disabled — without telling the public. Apple has threatened to remove FaceTime and iMessage from the UK if the plans are enforced.

Another prominent critic is Harry Halpin, the CEO of Nym Technologies, a privacy startup based in Switzerland. According to Halpin, the rules could lead to “surveillance as the default on everyone’s devices.”

Secretly toying with security features designed to keep users safe is short-sighted and could be exploited by adversaries, whether they are criminal or political,” he told TNW.

One of Halpin’s key concerns involves the impact on the impending Online Safety Bill.

Ostensibly an attempt to remove harmful content from the internet, the bill has sparked fears that backdoors to end-to-end encryption will be mandated. Apple, Signal and WhatsApp have all refused to comply with the requirement.

Combined with the IPA, the legislation could make enforcement “politically motivated,” said Halpin.

“The thing about backdoors when it comes to communications technologies is that when you open them, you open them to anyone shrewd enough to exploit them,” he warned. 

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