MPs should reject powers to veto global privacy tools

Open Rights Group has urged MPs to reject proposals that would enable the UK to secretly veto security updates that ensure our online interactions are safe and secure.
The Investigatory Powers (Amendment) Bill, which will be debated in the House of Commons on February 19, could force tech companies to apply to the Home Office prior to introducing updates that improve the security and privacy of their products. The Home Office could then serve notices preventing the updates from being applied. These proposals have been condemned by privacy organisations and tech companies alike because of the threat they pose to people’s security and privacy.

Open Rights Group’s Platform Power Programme Manager, Abigail Burke said:

“On the day that MPs are expected to pay their respects to Alexei Navalny, it would be shameful if they agreed to surveillance powers that are more suited to Putin’s Russia than the UK.

“We urge the UK government to listen to tech companies and privacy experts, and stop this threat to our privacy and security in its tracks.”

The UK already has some of the most intrusive surveillance laws found within a democratic state through the IPA Act. Last year, parliamentarians passed the Online Safety Act, which includes powers to allow Ofcom to order tech companies to scan everyone’s private messages, even though the Government has admitted that it is not technically feasible to do this without endangering everyone’s privacy. Last week, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) clarified that governments should not simply require that encryption is removed or limited in order to target criminals and thereby compromise everyone’s privacy. The Court ruled that doing so is not proportionate.

Burke added:

“We welcome this decision and urge the government and Ofcom to take note. Encryption is essential for keeping us safe online and the government should be working to protect this crucial technology not undermine it.”