Apple Threatens To Pull iMessage And FaceTime From UK If This Anti-Privacy Bill Passes

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Apple is threatening to pull the ability to use iMessage and FaceTime from users in the UK over proposed new requirements on telecommunications operators. The new proposal is not a new law, but rather an update to the existing Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) 2016.

When it comes to allowing law enforcement and government entities access to devices like an iPhone or iPad, Apple has been a staunch opponent of the idea. The tech company has been steadfast in its stance that its user's privacy comes first, and it seems that viewpoint may cause people in the UK who own an Apple device to lose access to features like iMessage and Facetime.

In a press release by the UK government, it states "This consultation is on possible outcomes for revised IPA notices regimes intended to improve the effectiveness of the current regimes." It adds that representations from organizations that would be affected by the relevant propositions of the IPA are welcome to have their opinions heard.

The current IPA allows the Home Office in the UK to demand security features be disabled, without informing the public. Until now, the demand would have to undergo a review process before being implemented. However, if the new proposition is approved, those demands would take effect immediately, skipping the review process altogether.

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Due to the secrecy of the demands that have already been implemented, little to nothing is known as to what they entailed. It also means it is nearly impossible to know whether or not all companies have complied with them.

In the Ministerial Foreword of the new proposition, it states, "The Investigatory Powers Act 2016 (IPA) is a world-leading piece of legislation that provides a comprehensive regime for regulating the use by public authorities of intrusive investigatory powers. It makes clear the circumstances in which the various investigatory powers may be used and the strict safeguards that apply, ensuring that any interference with privacy is strictly necessary, proportionate, authorised and accountable."

This explanation does not cut it with the likes of Apple and messaging app Signal, known for its end-to-end messaging encryption. Signal has also threatened to remove its app from the UK if the new additions to IPA go through.

Professor Alan Woodward remarked in an interview, "There is a degree of arrogance and ignorance from the government if they believe some of the larger tech companies will comply with the new requirements without a major fight."

The Home Office stated to the BBC that the IPA was designed to "protect the public from criminals, child sex abusers and terrorists." It added that it has not made any final decisions on the matter yet.

Time will tell whether the proposed changes will actually become part of the current IPA legislation. For those in the UK who own Apple devices, or use apps like Signal for encrypted messaging, the outcome will undoubtedly be watched very closely.