Government attacks Whatsapp security
The government has reportedly accused Whatsapp of creating a “black hole” in security intelligence by refusing to give it access to people’s encrypted messages. Sky News quoted an anonymous security source, who claimed that terrorists are “frequent users” of encrypted apps because they know no one can read their messages.
“It is crucially important that we can access their communications – and when we can’t, it can provide a black hole for investigators,” the source added. Other communication platforms such as imessage and Telegram also protect their users’ messages via encryption and do not allow the government access to the information.
The news comes after Theresa May stressed that technology companies should do more to help the government identify security threats, following the bucket-bomb attack at Parsons Green Tube station.
How will it affect you?
Whatsapp encrypts the content of your messages but it still allows the authorities to see other data such as your account name, when the account was created, the last known IP address used to access the service and the email address associated with your account. This suggests that it isn’t completely watertight for private communications – especially if you’re engaging in illegal activities.
But Whatsapp has made it clear it wants to protect its users, and this means messages must stay encrypted and hidden from authorities, just as they are kept safe from criminals.
What do we think?
Encryption remains a thorny issue – nobody wants terrorists and other criminals to have a safe haven where they can evade the authorities. Yet law-abiding individuals have a right to privacy.
Whatsapp itself says: “We carefully review, validate, and respond to law enforcement requests based on applicable law and policy, and we prioritise responses to emergency requests.” Forcing the service to stop encrypting messages will only entice criminals to use lesser known and less cooperative tools.