US, UK, and Australia Urge Zuckerberg Not to Extend Encrypted Messaging to Facebook and Instagram

by

U.S., U.K., and Australian officials have contacted Facebook to request that it provides authorities with a way to access encrypted messages sent by users over the social network, it was revealed today.

Facebook-owned WhatsApp already uses end-to-end encryption to ensure only senders and recipients can read messages, but Facebook intends to extend the same protocols to its Messenger and Instagram Direct chat platforms.


However, government officials have penned an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg asking him not to go ahead with the plan – or if it does, to at least give authorities a way to read encrypted messages for reasons of law enforcement, and in particular to prevent child sexual exploitation.

A draft of the letter, obtained by BuzzFeed News, is set to be released in tandem with an announcement on a new data-sharing agreement between law enforcement in the U.S. and the U.K. aimed at removing barriers to cross-border surveillance.

"We are writing to request that Facebook does not proceed with its plan to implement end-to-end encryption across its messaging services without ensuring that there is no reduction to user safety," the letter reads.

"Risks to public safety from Facebook’s proposals are exacerbated in the context of a single platform that would combine inaccessible messaging services with open profiles, providing unique routes for prospective offenders to identify and groom our children."

"Security enhancements to the virtual world should not make us more vulnerable in the physical world. Companies should not deliberately design their systems to preclude any form of access to content, even for preventing or investigating the most serious crimes."

The letter, dated October 4, is signed by U.S. Attorney General William P Barr, U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel, acting U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, and the Australian minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton.

"We believe people have the right to have a private conversation online, wherever they are in the world," a Facebook spokesperson said in response to the letter. "Ahead of our plans to bring more security and privacy to our messaging apps, we are consulting closely with child safety experts, governments and technology companies and devoting new teams and sophisticated technology so we can use all the information available to us to help keep people safe."

"We strongly oppose government attempts to build backdoors because they would undermine the privacy and security of people everywhere."

Zuckerberg also defended his decision to encrypt Facebook's messaging services, despite concerns about its impact on child exploitation and other criminal activity.

Speaking on Thursday in a livestreamed version of the company's weekly internal Q&A session, the CEO said child exploitation risks weighed "most heavily" on him when he was making the decision and pledged steps to minimize harm.

Apple has long opposed government attempts to gain access to encrypted communications through the use of backdoors in iOS devices.

In 2016, a U.S. federal judge ordered Apple to help the FBI hack into the iPhone owned by Syed Farook, one of the shooters in the December 2015 attacks in San Bernardino.

The FBI asked Apple to create a version of iOS that would both disable passcode security features and allow passcodes to be entered electronically, allowing it to then brute force the passcode on the device.

Apple announced that it would oppose the order in an open letter penned by Tim Cook, who said the FBI's request would set a "dangerous precedent" with serious implications for the future of smartphone encryption. Apple said the software the FBI asked for could serve as a "master key" able to be used to get information from any ‌iPhone‌ or iPad - including its most recent devices - while the FBI claimed it only wanted access to a single ‌iPhone‌.

Apple's dispute with the FBI ended on March 28, 2016 after the government found an alternate way to access the data on the ‌iPhone‌ through the help of Israeli firm Cellebrite and withdrew the lawsuit.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
9 months ago
Ah yes. For the children. Let’s just install cameras in every house so the government can make sure everyone is behaving.

Can’t wait until technology evolves to the point where people can see the government for what it really is.
Score: 25 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
9 months ago


You must have missed the inclusion of the land of the free in the opening sentence too.

well technically the US can be included


My suggestion is simply keep popular platforms encrypted but companies can provide the encryption key at law enforcement request. For conversations that need to stay private (journalists in danger, family business etc) just use E2E platforms like iMessage or Whatsapp or Signal to name a few.

Don’t trust anything that involves humans to be honest. Every other week I read an article of someone at a police station using their system to stalk ex girlfriends among other private reasons.

i personally did an internship at a health insurance company once upon a time and the amount of people that searched names from their private life and had chats like „ooooh he had cancer in year Xy. I hope he’s doing better!“

give someone a key to anything and the lock will be broken eventually
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
9 months ago
Child exploitation is abhorrent but to use it to serve your agenda is as equally abhorrent.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
9 months ago
Typical government “won’t somebody think of the children” emotional games to gain access.

Not that it really matters in this case, as Facebook are equally abhorrent.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
9 months ago


Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
9 months ago
I feel so dirty saying this...I actually support Facebook on this. I just threw up in my mouth a little.


Just delete Facebook people. End this madness.

Did that a while back. Sorry company, but have to admit Apple isn't much better these days :( :( :(.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Leaker: Apple to Stick With Lightning Over USB-C for 'iPhone 12' Before Going Port-Less Next Year

Tuesday May 26, 2020 2:31 am PDT by
Apple will use a Lightning port instead of USB-C in the upcoming "iPhone 12," but it will be the last major series of Apple's flagship phones to do so, with models set to combine wireless charging and a port-less Smart Connector system for data transfer and syncing in the iPhone "13 series" next year. The above claim comes from occasional Apple leaker and Twitter user "Fudge" (@choco_bit),...

Apple Releases macOS Catalina 10.15.5 With Battery Health Management Features, Fix for Finder Freezing

Tuesday May 26, 2020 1:59 pm PDT by
Apple today released macOS Catalina 10.15.5, the fifth update to the macOS Catalina operating system that was released in October 2019. macOS Catalina 10.15.5 comes two months after the launch of macOS Catalina 10.15.4, which introduced Screen Time Communication Limits. macOS Catalina 10.15.5 is a free update that can be downloaded from the Mac App Store using the Update feature in the...

16-Inch MacBook Pro, iPad Pro, and iMac Pro With Mini-LED Displays Again Rumored to Launch in 2021

Tuesday May 26, 2020 5:30 am PDT by
Apple plans to release several higher-end devices with Mini-LED displays in 2021, including a new 12.9-inch iPad Pro in the first quarter, a new 16-inch MacBook Pro in the second quarter, and a new 27-inch iMac in the second half of the year, according to Jeff Pu, an analyst at Chinese research firm GF Securities. This timeframe lines up with one shared by analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who recently...

Leaker Shares Details on 'iPhone 13' Camera

Wednesday May 27, 2020 4:27 pm PDT by
The next-generation iPhone 12 lineup coming in fall 2020 isn't out yet, but Fudge (@choco_bit), a leaker who sometimes shares information on upcoming Apple devices, today offered up details on what Apple has in store for the 2021 iPhone 13's camera setup. A simple design drawing depicts a device with a four camera array, which Fudge claims will have the following features: 64-megapixel...

Jailbreak Tool 'unc0ver' 5.0 Released With iOS 13.5 Compatibility

Sunday May 24, 2020 3:06 pm PDT by
The team behind the "unc0ver" jailbreaking tool for iOS has released version 5.0.0 of its software that claims to have the ability to jailbreak "every signed iOS version on every device" using a zero-day kernel vulnerability by Pwn20wnd, a renowned iOS hacker. The announcement comes just days after it was announced that the tool would soon launch. The unc0ver website highlights how the tool...

Apple Making It Harder to Avoid Nagging macOS Update Notifications

Thursday May 28, 2020 8:13 am PDT by
With the release of macOS Catalina 10.15.5 and related security updates for macOS Mojave and High Sierra earlier this week, Apple is making it more difficult for users to ignore available software updates and remain on their current operating system versions. Included in the release notes for macOS Catalina 10.15.5 is the following:- Major new releases of macOS are no longer hidden when...

HBO Max Now Available on Apple TV and iOS Devices

Wednesday May 27, 2020 2:42 am PDT by
HBO Max launched today, and is now available on Apple TV, iPhone, and iPad. WarnerMedia's new streaming service, which replaces HBO Now, combines HBO content with shows and films from Warner Bros and Turner TV. The service is available as a native app on the ‌Apple TV‌ HD and ‌Apple TV‌ 4K, but second and third-generation ‌Apple TV‌ owners will need to AirPlay HBO Max content...

First App Using Apple and Google's Exposure Notification API Launches in Switzerland

Tuesday May 26, 2020 3:02 pm PDT by
The first app that takes advantage of the Exposure Notification API developed by Apple and Google has launched in Switzerland, according to a report from the BBC. A team of app developers working on contact tracing app called SwissCovid have rolled out the app in a beta capacity for members of the Swiss army, hospital workers, and civil servants. After the app is tested and approved by MPs,...

Anker Launches $100 24K Gold-Plated USB-C to Lightning Cable

Wednesday May 27, 2020 12:47 pm PDT by
Anker, a brand normally known for its well-made, affordable accessories for Apple devices, has debuted a new $100 24K gold-plated USB-C to Lightning cable. According to Anker, the cable, which is in the PowerLine+ III family, features a "Special Edition Gold Design" that's "bold yet elegant" with the aforementioned gold-plated cable heads and matching braided gold and black cable. The...

Apple Reissuing Numerous iOS App Updates, Potentially Related to Recent 'This App is No Longer Shared' Bug

Sunday May 24, 2020 9:13 pm PDT by
Over the past few hours, a number of MacRumors readers have reported seeing dozens or even hundreds of pending app updates showing in the App Store on their iOS devices, including for many apps that were already recently updated by the users. In many cases, the dates listed on these new app updates extend back as far as ten days. Apple has not shared any information as to why updates for...