Apple threatens to withdraw FaceTime and iMessage in the UK over proposed changes to surveillance law

Apple says it will withdraw services including FaceTime and iMessage in the UK if plans to amend surveillance legislation that would require tech companies to make major changes to security and privacy go ahead (via bbc news).

The UK government plans to update the Investigative Powers Act (IPA), which came into force in 2016. The Act of Parliament allows the UK Home Office to force technology companies to disable security features such as data encryption. end to end without informing the public. . The IPA also allows the storage of internet browsing logs and authorizes the mass collection of personal data in the UK. Due to the secrecy surrounding these demands, little is known about how many have been issued and fulfilled.

This process currently involves independent oversight through a review process, and tech companies can appeal before having to comply. Under the proposed IPA update, disabling security features without informing the public would have to be immediate.

The UK government began an eight-week consultation process on the proposed amendments to the IPA, and Apple submitted a nine-page document condemning many of the changes. The company opposes the requirement to inform the Home Office of any changes to product security features before they are released, the requirement that companies outside the UK comply with changes that would affect their product globally, and having to take immediate action if a Home Office request is received to disable or block a feature without review or appeal process.

Apple also noted that some requested feature changes would require a software update, so they could not be implemented without public knowledge. The proposals “constitute a serious and direct threat to data security and information privacy” that would affect people outside the UK, Apple says.

The company added that it wouldn’t make changes to security features specifically for one country that would weaken a product for all users, suggesting that services like ‌FaceTime‌ and iMessage will simply be removed in the UK if the changes are made.

Apple, WhatsApp and Signal also oppose a clause in the UK’s proposed online security bill that would allow its communications regulator to require companies to install technology to look for MASI in encrypted messaging apps and other services. Signal has threatened to leave the UK over the matter.

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