Apple threatens to take down FaceTime, iMessage in UK

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Apple, an American consumer electronic company, has threatened to withdraw two of its services — FaceTime and iMessage — in the United Kingdom (UK) if its government amends surveillance law asking tech companies to make major privacy and security changes.

The development comes after the UK government planned to update its Parliament Act, Investigatory Powers Act (IPA), which came into effect in 2016, allowing the British Home Office to pressurise technology companies into disabling their security features like end-to-end encryption without informing the public.

The act also authorises companies to store internet browsing records while allowing bulk collection of personal data from users in the UK. However, little is known regarding how many such requests have been issued and complied with following secrecy around the demands made.

The process currently comprises independent oversight through a review process, while tech companies could appeal before having to comply with the requests. Under the suggested amendments to the act, companies will have to immediately disable security features without keeping the public informed.

An eight-week consultation process on the proposed change has been kick-started by the UK government, which is being opened to professional bodies, academia, interest groups and the public. Meanwhile, a nine-page-long document criticising the amendments has been submitted by Apple.

The consumer tech giant opposes several aspects of the proposed act stating that they are against the requirement to inform the Home Office about security feature changes before release, and the global impact on companies based outside the UK.

They have also objected to complying immediately with the UK government’s requests to disable or block features without review or an appeals process. The Time Cook-led company argues that implementing certain requested feature changes would entail a software update, which could potentially compromise public knowledge.

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