FaceTime vs. Big Ben: Apple battles British government over privacy
The internet safety bill has become a bone of contention: will Face Time and iMessage be shut down?
Company Apple In Great Britain worried the Internet Safety Bill, as amended by the Investigative Powers Act 2016. According to the company, the amendments may threaten the privacy of iPhone users. It could even force the manufacturer to shut down services like FaceTime and iMessage in the country.
The law allows the Home Office to access encrypted content. Apple emphasized that the proposed changes involve the UK government’s strict control over the security conditions of Apple products, including regular iOS software updates.
In a letter to the government, Apple said such measures would “make the Department of the Interior the de facto global arbiter of what level of data protection and encryption is acceptable.”
The company also opposed a proposal that would allow the authorities to block protection mechanisms and violate end-to-end encryption.
End-to-end encryption is the foundation of digital privacy. Only the sender and recipient can see the contents of the conversation. However, the legislation of many countries are fierce disputes with technology companies about the appropriateness of this technology.
If the law is passed, organizations like Apple “will be forced to openly abandon critical security tools in the UK market, depriving UK users of protection,” Apple said in a statement.
Alan Woodward, professor of cybersecurity at the University of Surrey, who signed the open letter against the amendments, said: “If the government continues to press its demands, then Apple will simply join the growing group of suppliers who will leave the UK. British users may be one of the most isolated and vulnerable groups in the world. Nobody wins in this scenario.”
A government spokesman recently stated that “The Investigative Powers Act is designed to protect the public from scammers and terrorists, and to keep children safe from sexualized content.” He also added that “all legislation is constantly being reviewed to ensure it is as effective as possible. The bill is part of that process – no final decisions have been made yet.”