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WhatsApp encryption should be open to intelligence services, home secretary says

Luke Johnson

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Your private WhatsApp messages should be accessible by intelligence services, home secretary Amber Rudd has suggested.

Speaking in the wake of this week’s terrorist attack in Westminster, Rudd said “there should be no place for terrorists to hide.”

She targeted WhatsApp, which offers end-to-end encryption on all of its messages, after it emerged Khalid Masood, the man responsible for carrying out the Westminster attack, had used the app two minutes before driving a car into crowd of tourists.

WhatsApp’s encryption means that messages are unreadable if intercepted by anyone, including law enforcement agencies or even WhatsApp itself. As a result, although enforcement agencies can see Masood had used the app, it is unclear what was said.

As a result, some politicians, including Ms Rudd, are calling for more open access to private communications.

Speaking to BBC One's Andrew Marr Show, she said: "It is completely unacceptable, there should be no place for terrorists to hide.

"We need to make sure that organisations like WhatsApp, and there are plenty of others like that, don't provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other.

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"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.”

Not everyone holds the same view as Ms Rudd, however, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn suggesting legal authorities already had “huge powers” and that there should be a balance between “right to know” and “the right to privacy”.

A WhatsApp spokesperson added that company was “horrified at the attack” and that it was already co-operating with the investigation.

Hammering home her point, Ms Rudd raised Apple’s recent decision to not help US authorities hack a suspected terrorists phone out of fear of future privacy repercussions.

“I would ask Tim Cook to think again about other ways of helping us work out how we can get into the situations like WhatsApp on the Apple phone,” she said.

WhatsApp currently has more than 1 billion monthly active users, with all messages now covered by end-to-end encryption as standard.

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Would you use WhatsApp if it didn’t offer encryption? Let us know below

Rob Routledge

March 27, 2017, 11:24 am

NO NO NO. Any concession will compromise the product. A knee-jerk reaction won't fix this issue, it requires a careful debate. I don't know the answer at this time but it sure isn't back doors, handing over keys etc.

toboev

March 27, 2017, 4:25 pm

If one solution is known to be compromised then the bad guys will use another. Better for the security services to develop their own hacks and keep quiet. There is no substitute for hard work.

Bugblatter

March 27, 2017, 6:59 pm

They use the threat of terrorism to take away our freedoms, including the right to converse privately. And that's how the terrorists win, by stripping us of our freedom. And the government likes it (especially May) because they have more control.

The risk of being involved in a terrorist incident is so small and yet the fear of it is so disproportionately large. That's not accidental. More people are killed by toasters! (probably)

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