Julia Lopez – 2022 Statement on App Security and Privacy Interventions

The statement made by Julia Lopez, the Minister for Media, Data and Digital Infrastructure, in the House of Commons on 11 May 2022.

I am pleased to inform the House that the Government have published a document titled “Call for Views on App Security and Privacy Interventions”, which sets out proposed interventions to protect consumers from malicious and poorly developed apps.

App stores can serve as trusted digital marketplaces that help protect users, but this Government expect them to have the right processes to check that apps are not a risk to users’ security and privacy. While many app stores have vetting and review processes, malicious and insecure apps continue to make it onto some stores. Developers also have a clear responsibility for ensuring that they are creating apps with appropriate security and privacy. Given the increasingly important role apps play in everyday life, we need to take action to manage the potential risks associated with using apps.

A key ambition of our new national cyber strategy, published in December 2021, is to reduce cyber risks so businesses can maximise the economic benefits of digital technology and citizens are more secure online and confident that their data is protected. The Government’s work on app security and privacy will put in place a framework that ensures operators of app stores and developers are taking appropriate steps which mean that users are not put at risk from malicious apps. The national cyber strategy also pledges to secure the next generation of connected technologies, for which apps can often be an important enabler. Additionally, as set out in the plan for digital regulation, we will ensure our overall approach to governing digital technologies is proportionate and supports growth and innovation within the sector.

The interventions suggested in this publication include a voluntary code of practice that sets out baseline security and privacy requirements for app store operators and app developers. The code would be a first step in a series of policy interventions intended to protect consumers from malicious and insecure apps, with the possibility of regulating aspects of the code in the future, should these policy interventions not achieve the desired outcome. These proposals complement work that is already happening across Government to help protect users and establish a pro-competition regime for digital markets, which will introduce new rules to ensure digital consumers and businesses are treated fairly so that new and innovative tech firms can flourish. As digital markets evolve, such as the distribution and methods for accessing apps, our focus will be to ensure that users are protected and developers are building apps with appropriate levels of security and privacy.

Alongside this publication, we have launched an eight-week call for views process, where we will be welcoming the public’s views on the proposed interventions. These views will help shape UK Government policy over the coming years and allow both consumers and businesses to securely use apps as part of everyday life, helping make the UK a stronger and more secure place for people and businesses.

I will place a copy of the “Call for Views on App Security and Privacy Interventions” document in the Libraries of both Houses.