Apple threatens to pull iMessage and FaceTime from UK

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Apple has threatened to remove popular communication services from the UK market if the government carries out planned amendments to the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) 2016. The company says it will remove iMessage and FaceTime from the UK instead of weakening their security.

Under adjustments to the law, tech companies would be forced to show the Home Office any security features and have them approved before releasing them to the public. If the Home Office doesn’t like the feature, it can make the company disable the security feature in question immediately, without telling the public.

According to the BBC, the Home Office already has these powers but there has to be a review and there can be an independent oversight process. Tech firms also have the ability to make an appeal before they make any change.

Under the adjustments to the law, tech companies would have to disable the features right away. In its current state, there is still a high level of secrecy around demands made by the Home Office and it’s not known how many have been issued or complied with.

Apple has listed to following comments about the proposed amendments:

  • It would not make changes to security features specifically for one country that would weaken a product for all users.
  • Some changes would require issuing a software update so could not be made secretly
  • The proposals "constitute a serious and direct threat to data security and information privacy" that would affect people outside the UK

If the law does go ahead, it’ll be interesting to see whether Apple really follows up on its threats to pull out of the UK. Its blue-bubble iMessage feature is regularly held up as a soft power tactic Apple uses to shame younger, more impressionable people, into using an iPhone over an Android phone.

Source: BBC News

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