Apple has become the latest operator of an encrypted messaging service to raise concerns about the UK’s Online Safety Bill, BBC News reports. “End-to-end encryption is a critical capability that protects the privacy of journalists, human rights activists, and diplomats. It also helps everyday citizens defend themselves from surveillance, identity theft, fraud, and data breaches,” a statement reads. “The Online Safety Bill poses a serious threat to this protection, and could put UK citizens at greater risk.”
With its statement, Apple joins the likes of WhatsApp and Signal in opposing a provision that would allow communications regulator Ofcom to call on tech companies to use “accredited technology” to identify child sexual abuse content “whether communicated publicly or privately” and swiftly take it down. Apple is calling for the bill to be amended to offer explicit protections for end-to-end encryption in this section.
“If implemented as written, [this bill] could empower Ofcom to try to force the proactive scanning of private messages on end-to-end encrypted communication services — nullifying the purpose of end-to-end encryption as a result and compromising the privacy of all users,” says an open letter signed by the heads of seven secure messaging apps including WhatsApp and Signal. (Apple is not a signatory.) “In short, the bill poses an unprecedented threat to the privacy, safety and security of every UK citizen and the people with whom they communicate.”
The government has insisted that the bill’s rules are necessary for catching criminals. “We support strong encryption but it cannot come at the expense of protecting the public. End-to-end encryption cannot be allowed to hamper efforts to catch perpetrators of the most serious crimes,” a government spokesperson previously told The Guardian.
As of this writing, the Online Safety Bill is working its way through the UK’s upper chamber, the House of Lords, with the expectation that it’ll be passed at some point this summer. Amendments to the bill are continuing to make headlines, such as new rules that will criminalize the sharing of deepfake intimate images and make it easier to prosecute people for sharing revenge porn.