Apple and government officials have been publicly sparring over how to handle privacy and encryption for months, and new rules expected to be proposed in the UK on Wednesday might make Apple’s position much harder to maintain.
The issue boils down to Apple allowing iPhone users to encrypt data behind a password — encryption that Apple can’t break through — and government officials wanting access in instances where de-encrypting smartphones could help law enforcement and security efforts. Services like iMessage and FaceTime are also encrypted end-to-end.
Now The Telegraph reports that the Investigatory Powers Bill being introduced on Wednesday will likely require Apple and other companies to hold a key to encrypted smartphones and services, giving access to government agencies when a warrant is issued.
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Should the bill become law, Apple would be forced to stop encrypting iPhones, iMessage, and FaceTime beyond its access. Apple has used its strong approach to encryption as a product feature worth marketing and strongly disagreed with government officials that say Apple has created a safe haven for criminal activity.
While measures within the bill haven’t been publicly revealed yet, The Telegraph says it will also require Internet companies to maintain user browsing data for one year. The bill is said to be a controversial one in terms of government reach and privacy implications, but one with the support of Prime Minister David Cameron.
Back in the US, the Department of Justice pushed forward by saying that Apple should be forced to grant access to iOS devices when asked by the government because the software running on iPhones is licensed, not sold.
DOJ and FBI officials have reportedly voiced frustration to the White House at Apple winning the encryption fight with little push back from higher-ups in the government, publicly saying last year that Apple’s stance would eventually stop law enforcement officials from preventing heinous crimes. Apple is among several voices that asked President Obama not to back measures that would force Apple to change its encryption policy like the ones being proposed in the UK this week.