Bloomberg: ‘Apple Set to Avoid EU Crackdown Over iMessage Service’

Samuel Stolton, reporting for Bloomberg:*

Apple Inc.’s iMessage service looks set to win a carve out from new European Union antitrust rules to rein in Big Tech platforms after watchdogs tentatively concluded that it isn’t popular enough with business users to warrant being hit by the regulation. [...]

In order to fall under the scope of the rules, a service must be deemed an “important gateway” for business users. EU enforcers now consider this is not the case for iMessage, according to the people.

If iMessage ended up being targeted by the Digital Markets Act, Apple would have faced potentially onerous obligations to make iMessage work with rival online messaging services, such as Meta Platforms Inc.’s WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger — a move that Apple has already strongly contested.

The elephant in the room with this particular issue is that the interoperability demands of the DMA between E2EE messaging platforms make no technical sense whatsoever. It’s all just hand-waving on the part of the EU bureaucrats who are demanding it. They have no idea what E2EE really means. They just want to demand that a WhatsApp user should be able to send a message to someone on iMessage or Facebook Messenger. Just make it happen.

Who would run key exchange, and manage the discovery and distribution of said keys, for E2EE messages sent across platforms? Key exchange and discovery is essential, and a difficult problem to solve within each platform itself. I think it’s impossible across platforms. Within each platform, the platform owner is in charge and handles these things. With this EU fantasy of mandatory interop across messaging platforms, who would be in charge?

Apple getting exempted from this, I think, will mainly benefit Apple by letting them ignore an impossible mandate. I don’t think this interop will ever come to fruition, no matter what the EU demands, because I don’t think it can, nor do I think it should. Would be nice to just avoid the debate.

* You know.

Wednesday, 6 December 2023