Apple threatens to remove FaceTime from UK over surveillance bill


Apple isn’t going down without a fight. The tech corporation has so many qualms about a surveillance bill in the United Kingdom that it’s prepared to fully remove FaceTime and iMessage services in the country.

These communication features are very popular worldwide among iPhone owners. But Apple seems ready to make such a sacrifice because it doesn’t want to weaken the security of its products.

This is because the company opposes UK government plans to update the 2016 Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) – a bill that governs how security agencies could interfere with privacy to obtain investigatory information.

Under the proposed IPA modifications, companies like Apple would need to clear new security features for their products with the Home Office before releasing them to customers. For instance, even regular iOS software updates would need to be confirmed by the government if it decided that such changes have “a negative impact on investigatory powers.”

The new IPA would also allow the government to force tech companies to disable security features for their products without telling the public.

Encrypted content and online privacy in general would be endangered, Apple said. End-to-end encryption ensures that messages can be unscrambled only by the devices sending and receiving them.

In a submission to the current consultation at the Home Office (it’s nine pages long, according to the BBC), Apple also expresses opposition to the requirement for non-UK-based companies to comply with the changes that would affect their product globally.

The proposals would “make the Home Office the de facto global arbiter of what level of data security and encryption are permissible,” Apple wrote and added that it would not make changes to security features specifically for one country that would weaken a product for all users.

Finally, in comments implying that encrypted products such as FaceTime and iMessage are endangered in the UK, Apple said it had never built a backdoor in its products for governments to use, so the firm would rather withdraw security features from the British market.

Tech companies are also opposing a clause in the Online Safety Bill that allows the communications regulator to require firms to install technology to scan for child abuse material in encrypted messaging apps and other services.

Signal, WhatsApp, and other platforms say they will not comply with the bill. Apple is also opposing the Online Safety Bill.


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