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Apple gives metaphorical finger to surveillance bill, says it will not comply

It turns out that, when pressed, Apple would rather pull out of a country entirely than compromise user privacy.
By
July 20, 2023
Apple Facetime stock photo 1
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority
TL;DR
  • Members of the UK government want to update the Investigatory Powers Act to make it easier to snoop on citizens.
  • This would involve compromising end-to-end encryption.
  • Apple has now said it will not comply with the changes if instituted and would simply pull services out of the UK.

In the United Kingdom, government members want to update a 2016 statute called the Investigatory Powers Act. The statute is similar to the Patriot Act in the United States in that it allows the government to obtain private information about citizens when it is in the interests of national security.

One of the updates the government wants is to force tech firms to break encryption protocols when necessary. This would include the end-to-end encryption (E2EE) users enjoy when using apps like WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, etc. It would also include two of Apple’s most widely used services: FaceTime and iMessage.

Now, in a nine-page letter to the UK (via BBC News), Apple has made its opinion on the matter loud and clear. The scathing letter says the proposed updates “constitute a serious and direct threat to data security and information privacy.” Ultimately, the letter concludes that Apple would not comply with the changes.

In other words, if the proposed changes to the Investigatory Powers Act happen, Apple would simply pull its E2EE services out of the UK. That would mean UK citizens would be unable to use FaceTime or iMessage.

To their credit, Meta (which owns WhatsApp) and Signal have also said they would pull out of the UK should the bill be amended in this fashion.

There will be an eight-week consultation period for these changes before the UK government decides. Hopefully, Apple and other companies won’t need to fully exit the country after that deliberation.