Apple could opt to stop iMessage and FaceTime services due to the government’s surveillance demands

Apple could opt to pull iMessage and FaceTime services in the U.K. in response to the government’s surveillance demands.

In light of the government’s surveillance demands, Apple might consider withdrawing iMessage and FaceTime services from the U.K.

The UK government wants to give more surveillance powers to its intelligence agencies proposing changes to the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA), which was first introduced in 2016.

The British government demanded firms providing messaging services of clearing security features with the Home Office before releasing them to customers. The authorities want having access to encrypted communications through messaging services that support end-to-end encryption.

The Home Office remarks that the Investigatory Powers Act was designed to “protect the public from criminals, child sex abusers and terrorists”.

In April 2023, several companies including Element, Signal, Threema, Viber, and WhatsApp jointly issued an open letter urging the U.K. government to reconsider its approach.

“Currently, there has to be a review, there can also be an independent oversight process and a technology company can appeal before taking any action. Because of the secrecy surrounding these demands, little is known about how many have been issued and whether they have been complied with.” reported the BBC. “But many messaging services currently offer end-to-end encryption – so messages can be unscrambled by only the devices sending and receiving them.“

Companies like WhatsApp and Signal declined to comply with a clause present in the Online Safety Bill. The clause requests service providers to implement technology to scan for child abuse material in encrypted messaging apps and other services.

Such kind of technology could be abused by the government to conduct dragnet surveillance.

Apple expressed its opposition to the requirement of informing the Home Office about any upcoming changes to product security features prior to their release. Additionally, the company objected to the request for creating a backdoor to end-to-end encryption. Apple stated that it will not cooperate with the Home Office until the demand to disable security features undergoes a thorough review or is subject to an appeal process.

According to the BBC, Apple declared that it would not make changes to security features specifically for one country that would weaken a product for all users. It also added that the proposals “constitute a serious and direct threat to data security and information privacy” that would affect people outside the UK.

But it also rings hollow when considering the fact that every message sent to or received from a non-Apple device is unencrypted – SMS does not support end-to-end encryption – and could potentially open the door for government surveillance.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, Apple)

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