Apple threatens to kill iMessage & FaceTime in UK if controversial law passes

Posted:
in iPhone edited July 2023

Apple is refusing to compromise iPhone and Mac security, and will cut off FaceTime and iMessage in the UK should the new Online Safety Bill challenging end-to-end encryption be passed as it stands.

UK Houses of Parliament
UK Houses of Parliament



Apple made its position clear on the Online Safety Bill as part of an eight-week period where the UK government is seeking feedback. It has always opposed the bill, but in a new filing spotted by the BBC, Apple is drawing a firm line.

Specifically, Apple has said that it will not make changes to security features for one country that would weaken a product for all users. Elaborating on its point, Apple says that the law and changes that would have to be made to iMessage and FaceTime -- and likely other products -- "constitute a serious and direct threat to data security and information privacy" worldwide.

Apple does not stand alone in this point. Signal and WhatsApp have similar positions on the law. Signal went so far as to say it would completely walk away from doing business in the UK, should the law pass.

What the UK's Online Safety Bill contains, and why big tech is fighting against it



The Online Safety Bill is being considered by the UK parliament as a potential law that could force online messaging services that use encryption to scan for potential images of child abuse. As part of a wider criticism of the bill's intentions, Apple has publicly objected to the law's implementation, and Thursday's filing just amplifies that position.

The bill reasons that law enforcement is not capable of identifying child sexual abuse material being shared across online messaging services like iMessage, due to the implementation of end-to-end encryption. Therefore, the law would empower regulator Ofcom to order such platforms to scan the contents of messages.

However, to accomplish that, there has to be a weakening of end-to-end encryption itself, making it less secure and eliminating the whole point of using the technique for privacy in the first place.

Apple's statement occurs at the same time as the Open Rights Group sends an open letter to minister Chloe Smith, the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation, and Technology.

Signed by over 80 civil society organizations and academics, the group believes "The UK could become the first liberal democracy to require the routine scanning of people's private chat messages, including chats that are secured by end-to-end encryption" if the bill becomes law.

While Apple is against the bill, it has previously attempted to perform actions that would be somewhat in the ballpark of what the bill would require it to do. Its 2021 attempt to introduce on-device scanning of images as a child protection measure was praised by the UK government, but was ultimately killed off by Apple in December 2022.

Read on AppleInsider

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 52
    darkvaderdarkvader Posts: 1,146member
    I'm assuming they'd still work if you use a VPN to appear out of the country to Apple servers.

    I expect Signal would still just work, I can't imagine they'd go to any actual effort to break it, they'd just not "officially" support UK users.
  • Reply 2 of 52
    darkvader said:
    I'm assuming they'd still work if you use a VPN to appear out of the country to Apple servers.

    I expect Signal would still just work, I can't imagine they'd go to any actual effort to break it, they'd just not "officially" support UK users.
    They would be removed from the UK version of the App Store and as they are mostly indexed by telephone number they would disable any account that used a UK phone number.

    While you may be able to do some workarounds the loss of critical mass and the fact you'd only be able to communicate with existing international users makes it not worth it.

    Sadly I expect the current government in the UK thinks that Apple/Meta and Signal are bluffing, they aren't they are deadly serious and the UK is a small enough market they can that walk away from it.
    iOS_Guy80zeus423KTRtdknoxbaconstangwilliamlondonappleinsideruserdewmeAlex1Nkitatit
  • Reply 3 of 52
    anonymouseanonymouse Posts: 6,854member
    However, to accomplish that, there has to be a weakening of end-to-end encryption itself, making it less secure and eliminating the whole point of using the technique for privacy in the first place. 
    The problem is not that there has to be a weakening of end to end encryption, it's that this law essentially outlaws end to end encryption.


    byronlchasmwilliamlondonAlex1NStrangeDayskiltedgreenjony0
  • Reply 4 of 52
    xbitxbit Posts: 390member
    Sadly, the current UK government is packed with ideologues who are completely detached from reality. 
    mitocatwolf2919zeus423tdknoxchasmwilliamlondonappleinsideruserbluefire1bloggerblogCelticPaddy
  • Reply 5 of 52
    scatzscatz Posts: 30member
    chelgrian said:
    darkvader said:
    I'm assuming they'd still work if you use a VPN to appear out of the country to Apple servers.

    I expect Signal would still just work, I can't imagine they'd go to any actual effort to break it, they'd just not "officially" support UK users.
    They would be removed from the UK version of the App Store and as they are mostly indexed by telephone number they would disable any account that used a UK phone number.

    While you may be able to do some workarounds the loss of critical mass and the fact you'd only be able to communicate with existing international users makes it not worth it.

    Sadly I expect the current government in the UK thinks that Apple/Meta and Signal are bluffing, they aren't they are deadly serious and the UK is a small enough market they can that walk away from it.
    The UK is largest market in EMEA by quite a margin.
    saarekwilliamlondon
  • Reply 6 of 52
    mayflymayfly Posts: 385member
    Ever hear the ancient Arab tale "The Camel's Nose"?

    One cold night, a camel asks his master if he can put his head in the tent for warmth. “By all means and welcome,” said the man; and the camel stretches his head into the tent. Soon after, the camel inquires if he may also bring his neck and front legs inside. Again, the master agrees.

    Finally, the camel asks, “May I not stand wholly within?” With pity, the master beckons him into the warm tent. But when the camel comes forward it becomes clear that the tent is too small for them both. “I think,” the camel said, “that there is not room for both of us here. It will be best for you to stand outside, as you are the smaller; there will then be room enough for me.”

    Apple is the master. The UK is the camel. You are the tent, and when the camel shits, it's going to land on you.
    baconstangh2pAlex1N
  • Reply 7 of 52
    AppleishAppleish Posts: 677member
    From the country that instituted Brexit against popular opinion and had an unelected leader that was only in office for a few weeks, who destroyed hundreds of billions of pounds from their economy.
    Oferkiltedgreenavon b7zeus423tdknoxbaconstangchasmwilliamlondonradarthekatAlex1N
  • Reply 8 of 52
    davidwdavidw Posts: 2,022member
    scatz said:
    chelgrian said:
    darkvader said:
    I'm assuming they'd still work if you use a VPN to appear out of the country to Apple servers.

    I expect Signal would still just work, I can't imagine they'd go to any actual effort to break it, they'd just not "officially" support UK users.
    They would be removed from the UK version of the App Store and as they are mostly indexed by telephone number they would disable any account that used a UK phone number.

    While you may be able to do some workarounds the loss of critical mass and the fact you'd only be able to communicate with existing international users makes it not worth it.

    Sadly I expect the current government in the UK thinks that Apple/Meta and Signal are bluffing, they aren't they are deadly serious and the UK is a small enough market they can that walk away from it.
    The UK is largest market in EMEA by quite a margin.

    That's in regard to iPhone sales. But Apple is talking about disabling iMessage and FaceTime on UK Apple devices, not stop selling them in the UK. I would hope. And from what I read, the vast majority of mobile device users in Europe uses WhatsApp anyways. And it's on 75% of UK internet devices. So not having iMessage and FaceTime on their iOS devices might not be that big a deal breaker when considering buying an iPhone. Not having WhatApps would be the bigger problem. But it's not going to be on their Android device either. 

    The bigger problem for UK citizens would be that there would be no messaging services in the UK with true end to end encryption, for any of their devices and they might have problem messaging with anyone outside the UK, that subscribes to a messaging service with end to end encryption. There's still SMS.
    edited July 2023 OferbaconstangwilliamlondonradarthekatAlex1Njony0
  • Reply 9 of 52
    anonymouseanonymouse Posts: 6,854member
    Appleish said:
    From the country that instituted Brexit against popular opinion and had an unelected leader that was only in office for a few weeks, who destroyed hundreds of billions of pounds from their economy.
    Give credit where credit is due: Brexit was the SVR's greatest accomplishment, although, it's been all downhill from there for them.
    Alex1N
  • Reply 10 of 52
    rob53rob53 Posts: 3,231member
    It's about time Apple drew a line in the sand. I'm sick and tired of countries dictating how a product is designed especially when those countries have nothing worthwhile to offer. Yes, the UK and EU make some cellular devices but nothing compared to what Apple produces. The removal of end-to-end encryption is simply a ploy to allow governments to capture all kinds of personal information without even having a warrant. The UK wants to go back to the days of the telephone party line so they can snoop constantly. 
    kiltedgreenzeus423KTRbaconstangtdknoxchasmappleinsideruserdewmeCelticPaddyAlex1N
  • Reply 11 of 52
    danoxdanox Posts: 2,671member
    Appleish said:
    From the country that instituted Brexit against popular opinion and had an unelected leader that was only in office for a few weeks, who destroyed hundreds of billions of pounds from their economy.
    The majority of people who bothered to vote, voted for Brexit it wasn’t instituted against anyone, those who participated voted for it (democracy). If you didn’t show up on the pitch (voting booth) and vote against it in greater numbers you deserve what you got.

    The next item on the Tory menu is eliminating the NHS and going to the American style healthcare insurance system, and insurance in America is falling apart everywhere, Housing, Health, Fire, Hurricane, Tornado, Flood, and Earthquake, those who are against government are going to want government help, a bail out maybe? :blush:

    The EU and Europe and general will just keep pushing until Apple finally says no, maybe the British can bring back industry and making stuff in their country? fat chance the upper crust, are all finance, lawyers, accountants, judges, landlords, aristocracy, tax dodgers and politicians. Just to bad the common person in Britain keeps falling for the upper 5% interests over their own.

    Apple will be forced to regionalize their devices, Europe, EU, Britain and many other countries just will not stop, I believe Apple will be forced to have a basic core phone, similar to a gaming console in some parts of the world.
    saarekbaconstangscatzwilliamlondonelijahgdewmeh2plibertyandfreeAlex1N
  • Reply 12 of 52
    jdonAIjdonAI Posts: 11member
    Law-Making-Bureaucrats are a pain in the Ass. . .
    zeus423appleinsiderusermayfly
  • Reply 13 of 52
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,693member
    Good response from Apple.  
    kiltedgreenzeus423baconstangchasmwilliamlondonappleinsiderusermayflylibertyandfreeAlex1Nmacxpress
  • Reply 14 of 52
    saareksaarek Posts: 1,519member
    Appleish said:
    From the country that instituted Brexit against popular opinion and had an unelected leader that was only in office for a few weeks, who destroyed hundreds of billions of pounds from their economy.
    Either you’re a revisionist or you simple don’t understand how referendums work.

    The vote for Brexit was clear, the majority of the population of the United Kingdom voted for it to happen (17.4M to leave vs 16.1M to remain).

    Yes, Scotland and, to a lesser degree Northern Ireland, voted to remain. However even nearly 40% of the Scots voted to leave which is a fact that the SNP never recognises as they pretend that all of Scotland voted to remain in the EU.

    Was it the right decision? Well, I don’t think we will truly know that for at least another 10 years. None of the  prophetic doom and gloom scenarios ever got close to materialising and the country was always going to be worse off during the initial divorce stage.

    Either way the result of the decision is largely irrelevant, what is relevant is that a democratic vote was taken and was then acted upon (albeit poorly).
    edited July 2023 williamlondonelijahglibertyandfreeAlex1Nwilliamh
  • Reply 15 of 52
    What would be an interesting idea to combat this. Have Apple create about a dozen or so iPhones with special software that does not contain end-to-end encryption. Give them to these idiot politicians, lock them out of their existing devices, and force them to use the unencrypted phone. After their leaked text messages and private photos are available for everyone to see, maybe they'll finally realize how insanely stupid of an idea it would be to eliminate end-to-end encryption.
    zeus423baconstangAlex1N
  • Reply 16 of 52
    saareksaarek Posts: 1,519member
    Sadly the debate is being held by those who do not understand the subject matter.

    One cannot simply build a back door and only give the key to the good guys. If you build in a weakness it can be exploited.

    Hopefully the message from experts will get through and the bill will be amended.
    baconstangchasmwilliamlondonappleinsideruserlibertyandfreeCelticPaddyAlex1N
  • Reply 17 of 52
    thedbathedba Posts: 757member
    It's truly amazing how some ignorant/corrupt politicians are forcing thinking folk to side with billion/trillion dollar corporations.
    mayflychasm
  • Reply 18 of 52
    saarek said:
    Appleish said:
    From the country that instituted Brexit against popular opinion and had an unelected leader that was only in office for a few weeks, who destroyed hundreds of billions of pounds from their economy.
    Either you’re a revisionist or you simple don’t understand how referendums work.

    The vote for Brexit was clear, the majority of the population of the United Kingdom voted for it to happen (17.4M to leave vs 16.1M to remain).

    Yes, Scotland and, to a lesser degree Northern Ireland, voted to remain. However even nearly 40% of the Scots voted to leave which is a fact that the SNP never recognises as they pretend that all of Scotland voted to remain in the EU.

    Was it the right decision? Well, I don’t think we will truly know that for at least another 10 years. None of the  prophetic doom and gloom scenarios ever got close to materialising and the country was always going to be worse off during the initial divorce stage.

    Either way the result of the decision is largely irrelevant, what is relevant is that a democratic vote was taken and was then acted upon (albeit poorly).
    The vote for Brexit was so clear that Leave said before the referendum that if it was that close against them they would ask for a 2nd vote.

    And no need to wait 10 years to truly find out; JRM closed shop on the “Brexit benefits” department after how long(?) as he found none at all. There are no benefits to Brexit that benefit the citizenry and there never will be - it’s just allowed the current incumbents of Number 10 to become even more crazed as exemplified by this encryption proposal. They lost touch with decency and common sense years back.
    baconstangwilliamlondonmknelsonAlex1NAlex_VStrangeDays
  • Reply 19 of 52
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 7,479member
    danox said:
    Appleish said:
    From the country that instituted Brexit against popular opinion and had an unelected leader that was only in office for a few weeks, who destroyed hundreds of billions of pounds from their economy.
    The majority of people who bothered to vote, voted for Brexit it wasn’t instituted against anyone, those who participated voted for it (democracy). If you didn’t show up on the pitch (voting booth) and vote against it in greater numbers you deserve what you got.

    The next item on the Tory menu is eliminating the NHS and going to the American style healthcare insurance system, and insurance in America is falling apart everywhere, Housing, Health, Fire, Hurricane, Tornado, Flood, and Earthquake, those who are against government are going to want government help, a bail out maybe? :blush:

    The EU and Europe and general will just keep pushing until Apple finally says no, maybe the British can bring back industry and making stuff in their country? fat chance the upper crust, are all finance, lawyers, accountants, judges, landlords, aristocracy, tax dodgers and politicians. Just to bad the common person in Britain keeps falling for the upper 5% interests over their own.

    Apple will be forced to regionalize their devices, Europe, EU, Britain and many other countries just will not stop, I believe Apple will be forced to have a basic core phone, similar to a gaming console in some parts of the world.
    I, and hundreds of thousands of British permanent EU residents were NOT allowed to vote in the Brexit referendum.

    Precisely the group who would be directly affected more than anyone else by Brexit.

    Sixteen and seventeen year olds weren't allowed to vote either. Another huge group who have been negatively affected. It was their future that was hanging in the balance.

    If those two groups had been allowed to vote, the result would have been different. 

    This is putting to one side the lies of the leave camp, the fact that the referendum itself was not binding and the woefully inadequate legal text that the referendum was based on. 
    edited July 2023 baconstangchasmmuthuk_vanalingamradarthekatAlex1NAlex_V
  • Reply 20 of 52
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 24,084member
    rob53 said:
    It's about time Apple drew a line in the sand. I'm sick and tired of countries dictating how a product is designed especially when those countries have nothing worthwhile to offer. Yes, the UK and EU make some cellular devices but nothing compared to what Apple produces. The removal of end-to-end encryption is simply a ploy to allow governments to capture all kinds of personal information without even having a warrant. The UK wants to go back to the days of the telephone party line so they can snoop constantly. 
    The problem for Apple, at least in some eyes, including politicians, is Apple has found a way to adhere to a country's security laws even if it requires compromising user's privacy and individual security in order to do so. The demarcation line for Apple isn't yet clearly established, but there is one nonetheless, likely based on market size and type of government, and that's a fact.

    "Apple stores customer data on Chinese government servers."

    "Apple agreed to store the digital keys that unlock its Chinese customers' information in those (government) data centers. And Apple abandoned the encryption technology it uses in other data centers after China wouldn't allow it."

    My guess is the UK probably teeters on that edge and perhaps where Apple makes a public proclamation that they are NOT big enough on their own. Or it could be that the UK has more exposure to public pressure than some other less open countries and Apple is counting on them to convince the UK to drop the plan.

     In order to try to avoid future demands from others, Apple might make the UK the sacrificial lamb. 
    edited July 2023 Alex1N
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