Apple has strongly opposed a move by the British parliament to amend an act that would allow the government to order messaging services to weaken the encryption that protects their users. The Cupertino company said it will not compromise the end-to-end encryption that it offers to its iMessage users for one country. UK lawmakers are looking to weaken encryption of messaging services in an attempt to catch criminals, as part of proposed amendments to an existing law.
The Online Safety Bill, which contains proposed amendments to the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) 2016, has reached the UK parliament for consideration and the government has started a consultation process that will take eight weeks to conclude. One of the proposed amendments will involve requiring services like iMessage and Signal to install technology that will monitor child sexual abuse material (CSAM) on their platforms.
Apple has submitted a detailed, nine-page long note arguing that this demand from the UK government would violate the promise of privacy that it gives to its users, according to a BBC report.
The proposed changes include backdoors into encrypted messaging apps, along with asking companies to reveal details about any new security features they might be planning to deploy to their respective platforms. It is worth noting that creating a backdoor for law enforcement or other forms of lawful interception would also create vulnerabilities that could be misused by hackers and cyberciminals.
Apple has additionally said that it was not willing to weaken its security measures for users globally, specifically for one country.
The iPhone-maker has threatened to remove support for iMessage and FaceTime in the UK, if the government pushes through with the proposed changes to the IPA Act.
Meredith Whittaker, the president of the Signal messaging app was quick to retweet BBC’s report on the issue, applauding Apple’s stern stance against the demands of the UK government.
Apple joins Signal & WhatsApp: they’ll pull services from the UK before compromising privacy + security. This makes sense: the alt to exiting is undermining your reputation, killing the trust of those who rely on you. See: RIM, Blackberry, Saudi Arabia.https://t.co/veVS0P1qMK
— Meredith Whittaker (@mer__edith) July 21, 2023
Previously, Whittaker has also reacted in a manner similar, stating that Signal would rather walk away from the UK, then agree to the proposed changes.
Meta-owned WhatsApp has also opposed the UK’s request to let officials snoop on WhatsApp users’ conversations that are currently protected by end-to-end encryption.
The UK government’s eight-week-long consultation process will take into account the views of the industry. The Home Office responded to the BBC stating that the IPA Act was created to protect the public from “criminals, child sex abusers and terrorists” and that “no decisions have yet been made” while referring to the consultation that is part of the review process.
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