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iPhone without iMessage and FaceTime? UK law change could make it a reality

Apple has threatened to pull the iMessage and FaceTime apps from the UK, if the government passes a new law that could damage user privacy.

The iPhone maker has been a vocal opponent of the proposed Online Safety Bill, which would require tech companies to use services that will scan messaging apps for child abuse imagery – completely undermining end-to-end encryption in the process.

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Now Apple has gone a step further with a vow to pull its services completely from UK users, rather than compromise its stance on privacy. Apple said it would be unprepared to build a back door into its apps in order to comply with the new law it, and other companies like WhatsApp and Signal, believe to be massive overreach.

Apple said the proposed law change would “make the Home Office the de facto global arbiter of what level of data security and encryption are permissible”

The company added (via The Guardian): “Together, these provisions could be used to force a company like Apple, that would never build a backdoor, to publicly withdraw critical security features from the UK market, depriving UK users of these protections.”

It would also “result in an impossible choice between complying with a Home Office mandate to secretly install vulnerabilities into new security technologies (which Apple would never do), or to forgo development of those technologies altogether and sit on the sidelines as threats to users’ data security continue to grow.”

The government said the tweaked laws – a revision of the Investigatory Powers Act (2016) – are designed to give it more scope to respond to the challenges presented by evolving technology.

There is a public consultation, which lasts until July 31.

In a statement (via Tech Crunch), the Home Office said: “The first job of government is to keep the country safe and investigatory powers are an essential tool for protecting our citizens.

“The Investigatory Powers Act 2016 is designed to protect the public from criminals, child sex abusers and terrorists. With strong independent oversight, the Act regulates how intrusive investigatory powers by public authorities are used. We keep all legislation under review to ensure it is as strong as it can be and this consultation is part of that process — no decisions have yet been made.”

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