Apple in Yet Another Legal Scuffle; This Time with the UK over Brexit

Apple is in battle with the United Kingdom and the Dutch government over NFC policy. According to reliable sources, the United Kingdom is planning to launch an app for EU citizens to apply the citizenship post-Brexit.

Apple is now fighting a battle with the United Kingdom. This time the issue is Brexit. To cut the long story, the United Kingdom is planning to launch an app to help EU citizens to apply for ‘settled status.’ For this purpose, the applicant (EU citizen) has to fill a form, take a selfie, and scan a chip inside his/her passport by using their phone’s NFC reader.

This is where the trouble begins. It is known to all that Apple never allows developers to have complete access to the NFC chip in their iPhones. This plan of the United Kingdom cannot work with iOS as NFC reading APIs only support the NDEF data format.

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United Kingdom Asks Apple to Open iPhone NFC Chip for EU Citizens

The same process is likely to run smoothly on Android phones, as Android allows developers to read and write data through NFC protocols.

As reported by BBC, United Kingdom’s home secretary Sajid Javid had a meeting with Apple’s top brass over this matter. It is revealed that Apple is not willing to change its NFC policy. However, the government is “continuing to engage with Apple at the highest level.”

Notably, Apple introduced this feature called NFC in its iPhone 6 in 2014; this feature was launched to enable Apple Pay contactless transactions. NFC chip has no other role to play for the last few years.

Later in iOS 11, Apple added the CoreNFC framework that allows third-party app developers to read NDEF data from NFC tags. For this purpose, users have to launch the app to scan NFC tag.

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Since Apple strictly follows its privacy policy and the promise of security, this problem may not be solved quickly. Background reading of NFC chips is possible in the latest iPhone Xs, iPhone Xs Max, and iPhone XR; however, data must follow a strict format.

There is a glaring mismatch between Apple’s standards of the CoreNFC framework and data encoded in the chips inside passports, and therefore, this issue has cropped up.

Interestingly, the United Kingdom government was aware of the API limitations, when it announced the app in March. The government was under the impression that Apple would add the feature in its iOS 12.

A temporary solution can be worked out by EU citizens, who can borrow an Android device to fill their application. Alternatively, they can send their physical application along with the passport in the snail mail. Apple is less likely to make any change in its policy.

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Notably, the Dutch government is also asking Apple to amend its NFC policy. The government wishes to offer apps for the citizens with integrated passport scanning feature.

Summing up…

Apple has always put user’s privacy and data on its priority list. As mentioned above, the tech giant is not likely to give in to the requests or pressures from the UK and Dutch governments.

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Jignesh Padhiyar
Jignesh Padhiyar is the co-founder of who has a keen eye for news, rumors and all the unusual stuff that happens around Apple products. During his tight schedule, Jignesh finds some moments of respite to share side-splitting contents on social media.
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