BBC: Apple has voiced criticism against the Online Safety Bill’s powers that could compel encrypted messaging platforms such as iMessage, WhatsApp, and Signal to scan for child abuse material. This stance aligns with 80 other organizations and tech experts who have also called for the government to reconsider these powers. Apple insists that the bill should be amended to ensure encryption’s protection.
End-to-end encryption (E2EE) enables only the sender and receiver to read the message, safeguarding it from other parties. While the police, government, and certain child protection charities argue that this technology hinders the detection of child sexual abuse material sharing, Apple defends E2EE as a vital capability securing the privacy of many, including journalists, human rights activists, and diplomats.
The Online Safety Bill, currently under parliamentary review, includes measures that may allow the communications regulator Ofcom to instruct platforms to scan message contents using accredited technology. The government maintains that these powers would be a last resort and would comply with stringent privacy safeguards. Despite this, some tech experts express concern that such scanning would undermine the privacy of messages fundamentally.
Apple’s opposition to this part of the bill resonates with other major encrypted messaging platforms like Signal and WhatsApp. There is growing anticipation that parts of the bill, seen as a potential mandate for scanning, may be modified in the near future. However, the specifics of these changes and their ability to address the concerns of campaigners remain uncertain.