According to reports, the Teresa May’s government demanded WhatsApp give them access to encrypted messages. That request was flatly denied but it’s a topic that may will raise at a meeting being held at the UN. I suspect this is the start of another campaign to undermine the rights of individual privacy by playing the “terrorist use encrypted messaging service card”.
Companies such as Facebook, Apple and Telegram have designed their systems so that users can be assured their messages remain private. Even the operators of these, and many other messaging services, cannot access the messages as they are not stored and the encryption keys are held by users and not them.
The Sky News report, that captured May’s comments, notes “Encrypted messaging apps were used ahead of the attacks on Westminster, Manchester and London Bridge”.
This is the problem law enforcement agencies faced when investigating the San Bernardino shooters. They pursued Apple to unencrypted an iPhone 5c. While Apple complied with elements fo the investigation, they insisted they were not able to access data from the locked and encrypted device. Ultimately, the FBI paid big money for a hack.
Earlier this year, the Australian government promised to tackle encryption at a Five Eyes meeting. But, thus far, not a whole lot has come from that.
But it seems that members of the Five Eyes (the US with the San Bernardino case), Australia (at the Five Eyes) and the UK (at the UN) are all taking a poke at encryption. I suspect they are all playing a long game, laying groundwork so if a major attack takes place they can all say “I told you so” and then have a lever with with which to face changes to laws.
Or perhaps I’m just a conspiracy theorist. What do you think?