Deep Dives

Apple threatens to remove Facetime and iMessage from the UK

July 21, 2023
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Apple is threatening to remove its services, including FaceTime and iMessage, from the UK if a proposed law, requiring the company to disable security features, is enacted. This move is part of a broader dispute between tech companies and governments over user data privacy and the potential abuse of encryption technology.

Apple's Stance: Apple might withdraw its services from the UK instead of compromising their security if the new legal proposals are enacted.
  • The company's reaction is a response to a proposed law that might force it to weaken its security measures.
  • The services under threat include popular ones like FaceTime and iMessage.

  • Implications of the Proposed Law: The proposed law allows the Home Office to demand immediate disabling of security features without public notification.
  • Currently, a review process and the possibility of independent oversight exist, and companies can appeal before taking any action.
  • The proposed changes will remove these safeguards, making demands for security feature disabling immediate.

  • End-to-End Encryption: Many messaging services use end-to-end encryption, which allows only the sender and receiver to decode the messages.
  • Platforms such as WhatsApp and Signal use this encryption method for user security and privacy.
  • These platforms have opposed a clause in the Online Safety Bill, which requires companies to install technology to scan encrypted messages for child-abuse material.

  • Signal's Response: Signal has threatened to exit the UK if forced to comply with the new law.
  • Similar to Apple's response, Signal has indicated it will not compromise user privacy by adhering to the new legal requirements.

  • Government Consultation and Tech Response: The government has initiated a consultation process on amendments to the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA), which currently allows personal data bulk collection and internet record storage.
  • The government claims the proposed changes aren't about creating new powers but adapting the act to modern technology.
  • Critics argue that the government's expectations of compliance from major tech companies without a significant pushback are both arrogant and ignorant.
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