Britain’s got some of Europe’s toughest surveillance laws. Now it wants more

The new legislation is triggering fresh alarm among both industry execs and privacy campaigners | Scott Barbour/Getty Images LONDON — The U.K. already has some of the most far-reaching surveillance laws in the democratic world. Now it’s rushing to beef them up even further — and tech firms are spooked. Britain’s government wants to build on its landmark Investigatory Powers Act, a controversial piece of legislation dubbed the “snooper’s charter” by critics when introduced back in 2016. That law — introduced in the wake of whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations of mass state surveillance — attempted to introduce more accountability into the U.K. intelligence agencies’ sprawling snooping regime by formalizing wide-ranging powers to intercept emails, texts, web history and more. Now new legislation is triggering a fresh outcry among both industry execs and privacy campaigners — who say it could hobble efforts to protect user privacy. You may like Industry body TechUK has written to Home Secretary James Cleverly airing its complaints. The group’s letter warns that the Investigatory Powers (Amendment) Bill threatens technological innovation; undermines the sovereignty of other nations; and could unleash dire consequences if it sets off a domino effect overseas. Tech companies are most concerned by a change that would allow the Home Office to issue notices preventing them from making technical updates that might impede information-sharing with U.K. intelligence agencies. TechUK argues that, combined with pre-existing powers, the changes would “grant a de facto power to indefinitely veto companies from making changes to their products and services offered in the U.K.” “Using this power, the government could prevent the implementation of new end-to-end encryption, or stop developers from patching vulnerabilities in code that the government or their partners would like to exploit,” Meredith Whittaker, president of secure messaging app Signal, told POLITICO when the bill […]

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