UK backs down from nonsensical law after threats from Apple, WhatsApp

Posted:
in iOS edited September 2023

An unenforceable and entirely politically-motivated law that could have seen Apple iMessages and WhatsApp withdraw from the UK has been watered down to a face-saving compromise.

UK Houses of Parliament
UK Houses of Parliament



The UK's calamitous decision to leave the European Union has left it with a raft of systemic problems that now include its school buildings being unsafe, but its politicians have attempted to divert attention by talking up an absurd Online Safety Bill. If it had passed in its original form, it would have required Apple and other firms to effectively shut down the end-to-end encryption that is needed for privacy.

Apple denounced the plans and threatened to pull both iMessages and FaceTime from the UK if it became law. WhatsApp then followed suit.

Today the law has its final debate in Parliament, but ahead of that, the Financial Times says that regulator Ofcom will introduce a new clause that effectively ends it. The law will most likely pass the debate, but it will be rendered powerless.

Originally, it said that companies like Apple would be required to allow the UK government to scan and monitor any phone, ostensibly in order to search for child abuse images. Now it still says that, but with a significant climb-down.

"A notice [to companies such as Apple] can only be issued," says Ofcom's amending statement, "where technically feasible and where technology has been accredited as meeting minimum standards of accuracy in detecting only child sexual abuse and exploitation content."

No such technology exists today, nor is it feasible that there will ever be a system that only allows the good guys to break end-to-end encryption.

So the law is dead, iMessages, FaceTime and WhatsApp will continue unaffected, but the UK government can still get a news cycle in which it claims to have come down hard on Big Tech.

However, it isn't just Big Tech firms that objected to the proposals. Security experts in the UK signed an open letter against the plans. Nor is this a new issue: in 2017 a former head of British Intelligence service MI5 decried plans to break end-to-end encryption, too.

As recently as August 2023, however, the UK government was insisting that the proposals were not anti-encryption.

So the climbdown is not because of technology arguments, or security, or following advice, it appears to be directly in response to Apple and WhatsApp announcing that they would withdraw their services from the UK.

UK's history of politics over technology



Surprisingly, the climbdown does indicate a greater degree of listening to technology firms than before. Previously, for example, the UK has said that it was in deep discussions with Apple over gaining access to iOS for its COVID app -- and Apple says it wasn't even contacted.

That COVID app was the UK's own, created when the government originally eschewed Apple and Google's app system in favor of one that would harvest users' data for later resale.

Or it would have done, if it had worked. Eventually giving up on the idea after spending $15.6 million on it, the then Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK would adopt Apple and Google's system, but also said it wouldn't work.

"If we can get it to work it'll be a fine thing," he announced, "but there isn't one anywhere in the world so far."

When he said this, France, Germany, Australia, Singapore and Latvia had already launched their apps -- and Germany had made its source code freely available to any country.

Read on AppleInsider

ronn

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 18
    rob53rob53 Posts: 3,234member
    Time for the EU to follow suit. 
    zeus423spock1234watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 18
    sbdudesbdude Posts: 247member
    What does leaving the EU have to do with school building projects?
    rmasperowilliamlondonmobirdzeus423spock1234Robyn_Bankswatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 18
    In this article we see the author relate leaving the EU, with concrete in schools, and then majestically jump to the conclusion that the UK Government are using a poorly worded online safety bill as cover.

    I wish I lived in such a fun conspiracy filled microcosm, but I live in reality. back in reality where the majority of people in the UK voted for Brexit, these things have nothing to do with each other.
    williamlondonaderutterspock1234watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 18
    I agree with the comments about leaving the EU.and school buildings being an unnecessary political  barb. It comes from someone who worked at the BBC the well known “impartial” organisation (NOT) that supported the EU even after a democratic vote and tends to be against any Conservatives government. There are around 100 schools affected by the concrete problem, out of may thousands. 
    No by the way I am not a Brexit biased commenter, I just support the democratic vote of my countrymen, and don’t link every problem to Brexit unlike Mr Gallagher, who should stick with writing fiction, oh! He is:)
    edited September 2023 aderutterspock1234williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 18
    "There's none so blind as cannot see"
    Rmaspero "the majority of people in the UK voted for Brexit" Not true, a small majority of VOTERS voted to leave and now the reality of truth is evident any rerun would reverse it. Turnout was 72.2% and the 'majority' was 1,269,501. 51.9% voted to leave, 48.1% voted to stay so the majority was 3.8% hardly a landslide.

    As always in the UK the only way to prove a point is with the facts. Your version of reality, clearly is a distorted universe.
    baconstangavon b7ronnkiltedgreenAlex1Nwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 18
    Passat2.1 I sounds you don’t like democracy either, huh? Unless you just being pedantic, like I often am ;)

    Similarly, here in the UK the Liberal Democrats would have won many general elections if we’d had proportional representation, but we never have had nor ever will. C’est La Vie! 

    There will never be a rerun and to be honest we the people never got to vote to join the EU so shouldn’t have ever been in the EU imho. 
    EC/Common market yes, EU no. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 18
    Most of the schools effected were built 50 years ago or more.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 18
    How did this even get published? It’s embarrassingly bad.
  • Reply 9 of 18
    xbitxbit Posts: 390member
    steverob said:
    It comes from someone who worked at the BBC the well known “impartial” organisation (NOT) that supported the EU even after a democratic vote and tends to be against any Conservatives government.
    While the BBC employs a lot of young educated urbanites, who definitely lean left, the leadership of the BBC is made up of Conservative supporters, failed political candidates and donors. The cross pollination has gone the other with senior BBC journalists joining the staff of the Conservatives.
    kiltedgreenronn
  • Reply 10 of 18
    This is the problems we face now in the UK with a total embarrassment of a government stuffed with utter idiots who have “had enough of experts”. 

    Leaving the EU was an act of reckless self-harm which has brought zero benefits and an ever increasing list of problems for the citizens of the UK, however I have no idea how there is supposed to be a link between that an collapsing school buildings. These buildings were known to have a roughly 50 year lifetime at the time of construction, the Conservative government’s own reports told them in 2018 that they were in serious danger of collapse but true to form, absolutely nothing was done until 11:59pm just before some children and/or teachers are killed by falling masonry. A set of those schoolchildren could run our country way better than the current incumbents.
    Alex1NAlex_Vwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 18
    The law is not dead.  Within a few years, at most, they'll have come up with a process and declare it "feasible" by fiat.

    Gods forbid they just scrap the law.
    ronnAlex1Nwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 18

    Surprisingly, the climbdown does indicate a greater degree of listening to technology firms than before. Previously, for example, the UK has said that it was in deep discussions with Apple over gaining access to iOS for its COVID app -- and Apple says it wasn't even contacted.

    Oh my goodness. If you can't trust the government to tell the truth, who can you trust? :wink:
    Alex_Vwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 18
    The author should stick to his area of expertise. His comment "The UK's calamitous decision to leave the European Union has left it with a raft of systemic problems" is both off-topic and incredibly stupid. Half those problems were caused by joining that dysfunctional organization run by tyrannical, woke bureaucrats. The UK is overrun by immigrants who are bankrupting their social services. It was the EU that made this possible, and this was one of the key drivers of the Brexit movement. The EU-imposed regulations, 'human rights' obligations, and 'open economy' destroyed the UK's manufacturing base, which is part of the reason the UK is in such sorry condition today. None of this has anything to do with this absurd law, which is what the the author should have focussed on, instead of unintentionally revealing his globalist bias. Is he going to write another article criticizing the equally stupid laws passed by the EU?
    williamlondonaderutter
  • Reply 14 of 18
    The BBC today is a clearly left-biased, woke, and anti-reality organization that is blatantly pushing a globalist agenda. It doesn't matter if the BBC leadership is Liberal or Conservative. It only matters that they lie shamelessly, and their 'news' programs are filled with propaganda. No one with a triple digit IQ would believe anything they say without independent corroboration. Saying you work for the BBC is not the flex you think it is. 
    edited September 2023 williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 18
    spock1234 said:
    The BBC today is a clearly left-biased, woke, and anti-reality organization that is blatantly pushing a globalist agenda. It doesn't matter if the BBC leadership is Liberal or Conservative. It only matters that they lie shamelessly, and their 'news' programs are filled with propaganda. No one with a triple digit IQ would believe anything they say without independent corroboration. Saying you work for the BBC is not the flex you think it is. 
    Poppycock.

    ronnCuJoYYCwilliamlondon
  • Reply 16 of 18
    Wow, is this what passes for technology journalism now? How deluded to you have to be to think like this? Please AppleInsider, stop trying to be Novara Media. 

    The UK's calamitous decision to leave the European Union has left it with a raft of systemic problems that now include its school buildings being unsafe.
  • Reply 17 of 18
    spock1234 said:
    ”left-biased, woke, and anti-reality organization that is blatantly pushing a globalist agenda.”


    A disingenuous buzzword-compliant comment cut and pasted from a purveyor of RW boilerplate comment. Dude, at least try to be original while spewing your hate-filled, ignorance-laden, lickspittle invective.
    ronnwilliamlondon
  • Reply 18 of 18
    xbit said:
    steverob said:
    It comes from someone who worked at the BBC the well known “impartial” organisation (NOT) that supported the EU even after a democratic vote and tends to be against any Conservatives government.
    While the BBC employs a lot of young educated urbanites, who definitely lean left, the leadership of the BBC is made up of Conservative supporters, failed political candidates and donors. The cross pollination has gone the other with senior BBC journalists joining the staff of the Conservatives.
    OK. You make a fair point and I like that you disagree with me in a reasonable way, as I do with you. Unusual on forums!  Hopefully we can agree to disagree on the BBC. 
    williamlondonappleinsideruser
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