Sci/Tech, World

Sacrificing Freedoms for Security? U.K. Wants Access to WhatsApp Messages in Wake of Terror Attacks


via Fox News Tech

The U.K. government wants WhatsApp to give security services access to encrypted messages in the aftermath of the Westminster Bridge terror attack. Officials, however, could face stiff challenges if they choose to apply U.K. surveillance legislation to the U.S.-based firm, according to a digital privacy advocate.

British press reports suggest Westminster Bridge attacker Khalid Masood used the WhatsApp messaging service just minutes before the Wednesday rampage that left three pedestrians and one police officer dead and dozens more wounded.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd used appearances on BBC and Sky News Sunday to urge WhatsApp and other encrypted services to make their platforms accessible to intelligence services and police trying to carrying out lawful eavesdropping.


“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 BBC interview. “We need to make sure that our intelligence services do have the ability to go into situations like encrypted WhatsApp.”

Last year the U.K. passed the Investigatory Powers Act, which aims to strengthen the country’s surveillance powers.

However, the London-based Open Rights Group, which advocates for digital privacy and free speech online, told Fox News that any attempt to apply U.K. surveillance legislation would take the government into uncharted legal waters.

“The U.K. claims the power to ask companies with U.K. users to change their products as long as it is reasonable or technically feasible,” explained Jim Killock, Open Rights Group executive director, in a statement emailed to Fox News. “Although WhatsApp is U.S.-based, its parent company, Facebook, has offices and assets in the UK — and so it might be compelled to respond to such a request. However, none of this is tested in law; we don’t know whether there would be resistance or if the U.S. government might try to intervene.” Read More

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