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#1 2023-07-22 22:36:18

Registered: 2023-01-04
Posts: 1,919

Amid Surveillance Demands, Apple Threatens to Remove iMessage & FaceTi

In response to recent proposals that aim to give state intelligence agencies more digital surveillance authority, Apple has issued a warning, saying that it would prefer to stop providing iMessage and FaceTime services in the UK than to give in to pressure from the government.

In light of the latest development, which was first reported by BBC News, the iPhone manufacturer is the latest to voice their opposition to upcoming legislative changes to the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) 2016 that would effectively render encryption protections useless.

The Online Safety Bill specifically mandates that businesses implement technology to check encrypted messaging apps and other services for content related to terrorism and child sex exploitation and abuse (CSEA). Additionally, it requires messaging services to check security features with the Home Office before releasing them and to act quickly to disable them if necessary without disclosing their existence to the general public.

Although the fact does not specifically call for the removal of end-to-end encryption, it would de facto amount to its weakening because the companies providing the services would have to scan all messages to identify and remove them. This action has been criticized as being excessive because it enables widespread government surveillance and interception.

A clause like that would pose a serious and immediate threat to data security and information privacy, Apple informed the British broadcaster. ".

The UK government was urged in an open letter published earlier this month to reconsider its position and "encourage companies to offer more privacy and security to its residents" by a number of messaging apps that currently provide encrypted chats, including Element, Signal, Threema, Viber, Meta-owned WhatsApp, and Wire. ".

The letter stated that the bill "provides no explicit protection for encryption and, if implemented as written, could empower OFCOM to try to force the proactive scanning of private messages on end-to-end encrypted communication services—nullifying the purpose of end-to-end encryption as a result and jeopardizing the privacy of all users.".

After facing opposition from digital rights organizations who were concerned that the feature could be misused to compromise users' privacy and security, Apple, which had previously announced its own plans to flag potentially problematic and abusive content in iCloud Photos, abandoned them last year.

This is not the first time that end-to-end encryption and the need to combat serious online crimes have come into conflict.

WhatsApp filed a lawsuit against the Indian government in May 2021 to prevent the government from enacting internet rules that would force the messaging service to disable encryption by implementing a traceability mechanism to locate the "first originator of information" or risk facing legal repercussions. The case is still open.

Apple's refusal to cooperate is consistent with its public stance on privacy, which enables it to position itself as a "privacy hero" among other businesses that rely on gathering user data to deliver customized advertisements.

But it also seems hollow in light of the fact that SMS does not support end-to-end encryption, making all messages sent to or received from non-Apple devices unencrypted and potentially susceptible to government eavesdropping.


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