Facebook Inc. (FB) is facing calls from lawmakers in the U.K. to make its WhatsApp more accessible in the wake of last week’s terrorist attack in London.
In an interview, U.K. Home Secretary Amber Rudd called on Facebook and other app makers to make their encrypted messaging services accessible to intelligence agencies to prevent future terrorist attacks. The home secretary, according to The Guardian, called it “completely unacceptable” that the U.K. government can’t read messages sent within the apps. Rudd is holding a meeting with technology companies later this week to discuss options.
Rudd also wouldn’t rule out passing legislation to give intelligence agencies access to the encrypted messaging apps. The calls from Rudd came after it was revealed that Khalid Masood, the British extremist who murdered four people near Parliament on Wednesday, communicated via WhatsApp shortly before the attack. Police believe Masood acted alone in the attack that shook the nation.
Privacy Vs. Security
While a large percentage of the population would agree that law enforcement should have access to encrypted messaging apps, privacy advocates and consumer watchdogs argue that giving the government such power is overreach, arguing that creating new “draconian” laws only serves to play into the terrorists' hands.
The calls on the part of U.K. lawmakers comes on the heels of a long-running fight between Apple Inc. (AAPL) and the FBI over getting access to locked devices in the U.S. Apple had refused to help unlock the iPhone belonging to San Bernardino terrorist Syed Farook, which forced the FBI to use costly software to unlock it. Apple said it would violate the rights of its customers if the government was able to decrypt data on locked iPhones. In February, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook penned a letter to Apple customers arguing that the government’s demands are “chilling.” He went on to say that the FBI wanted Apple to create a new version of the iPhone operating system to get around security features and install it on the iPhone recovered in the shooting. “In the wrong hands, this software—which does not exist today—would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession. The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control,”.