Apple has announced that it will remove FaceTime and iMessage from UK arms instead of weakening the security that both sides provide. FaceTime and iMessage services are used by iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch users around the world but pending changes to UK law may require Apple to change the way they work.
The UK government is seeking to amend the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) 2016, and is now holding an eight-week consultation on the proposed changes. But the changes could change the technology landscape for UK users with Apple one of the companies threatening to remove all features and services.
Security and privacy conflict
As part of these changes, the government requires new security tools for services such as iMessage and A symbol to be reviewed by the Home Office before being released to customers. Currently, the Home Office can order the shutdown of security devices without warning, but this process allows technology companies to request and independent monitoring is in place. Under the new proposal, those changes could happen sooner, he says BBC.
Many services, including iMessage, support end-to-end encryption that prevents anyone but the sender and recipient from reading the content. But a new clause in the Internet Safety Bill will force companies to add features that analyze messages about child abuse, something some have already said they won’t do. Signal has promised to withdraw its UK service if it is forced to comply, while Apple has also voiced its objections.
Apple in particular could find itself in trouble in the UK. Its big iPhone and Mac advertising deals with the security and privacy of its devices and services, but giving the UK government a back door into its popular and secretive iMessage service could seriously damage that. Encryption is the cornerstone of what has made Signal popular among journalists, government officials, and other vulnerable people around the world. Removing that protection seems unfair.
Apple is said to have issued a nine-page document opposing the planned changes, arguing against a number of issues including notifying the home office of any security changes before they are released. The requirement to turn off security devices immediately when prompted by the Home Office is another point that Apple opposes. The company continues to say that it will not make changes to its security in one country that could weaken its product for users around the world.