Give security agencies access to messages, UK Gov’t tells WhatsApp


Give security agencies access to messages, UK Gov’t tells WhatsApp

Pressure is mounting on global technology giants to give law enforcement officers access to encrypted user data, this coming in the wake of a fatal terror attack that claimed 5 lives, injuring 50 others in London last Wednesday.

British government officials have now confirmed that they will be meeting senior officials of global tech companies, these remarks coming just a day after the United Kingdom’s Home Secretary Amber Rudd said that communication platforms – such as WhatsApp – should not provide private communication channels for terrorists.

“We need to make sure that organizations like WhatsApp — and there are plenty of others like that — don’t provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other,” she said in a Sunday night interview with the BBC.

Her remarks came following a revelation that 52-year-old attacker, Khalid Masood, used WhatsApp just minutes before going on a murderous rampage.

Massood’s ‘final words’ have now been rendered inaccessible, thanks to WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption.

Simply put, end-to-end encryption means that only the sender and recipient of the message can view what is sent – this being an added feature that the Facebook owned instant messaging platform rolled out April 2016.

This lock and key encryption ensures that no one, including WhatsApp, can access messages sent through the platform – a situation that the UK minister has termed as ‘completely unacceptable’.

Explaining that, in past times, security agencies were granted access to mainstream communication channels, Rudd argued that, presently, lack of similar access has crippled the efforts of security bodies.

“It used to be that people would steam-open envelopes or just listen in on phones when they wanted to find out what people were doing, legally, through warranty. But on this situation we need to make sure that our intelligence services have the ability to get into situations like encrypted WhatsApp.”

Though Rudd’s remarks have gained some support from the general public, tech pundits have expressed doubts that the efforts will bear fruit. Citing Apple’s landmark 2016 tussle with the FBI, where the firm refused to unlock an iPhone belonging to one of the St Bernardino shooters, experts are skeptical that tech companies will backtrack on their data security policies.

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Joy Chelagat
Story By Joy Chelagat
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