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Apple threatens to remove FaceTime and iMessage from the UK due to proposed surveillance bill

Published Jul 20th, 2023 9:03AM EDT
Apple-Privacy
Image: Apple

Apple could remove FaceTime and iMessage from the UK if the government updates its Investigatory Power Act from 2016. According to BBC News, the UK government wants messaging services to “clear security features with the Home Office before releasing them to customers.”

With that in mind, the government could make Apple disable E2E features from iMessage and FaceTime without warning customers. The same could be worth it for WhatsApp, Signal, and other messaging apps that use this extra layer of protection.

For a company to remove E2E from a messaging app, there has to be a review, an independent oversight process, and the tech company can appeal before taking any action. Although it’s unclear if this act was ever used due to its secrecy, these tech companies have opposed this updated act – and Signal even threat to leave the UK.

Apple has pointed out some of the issues with the new proposals, such as having to tell the government of any changes to product security features before they are released, the requirement for non-UK-based companies to comply with changes that would affect their product globally, and having to take action immediately if a notice to disable or block a feature is received from the government.

To that, Apple has said “it would not make changes to security features specifically for one country that would weaken a product for all users,” that “some changes would require issuing a software update so could not be made secretly,” and the proposals “constitute a serious and direct threat to data security and information privacy” that would affect people outside the UK as well.

Currently, the UK government has opened an eight-week consultation on the proposed amendments to the Investigatory Power Act. Although it’s unlike these amendments are approved, BGR will keep closely following this story.

José Adorno Tech News Reporter

José is a Tech News Reporter at BGR. He has previously covered Apple and iPhone news for 9to5Mac, and was a producer and web editor for Latin America broadcaster TV Globo. He is based out of Brazil.

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