Facebook’s use of end-to-end encryption on its messaging platforms, including Messenger and WhatsApp, is one of the company’s strongest privacy features. However, many law enforcement officials across the world have raised concerns about the technology, expressing fears that it could provide safe cover for criminals to communicate with impunity. In October, several prominent world law enforcement leaders, including U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr, wrote an open letter to Facebook asking it to design a backdoor for officials to gain access to user content. However, Facebook rebuffed the request this week and said it will not weaken its encryption standards despite the pressure.
“It is simply impossible to create such a backdoor for one purpose and not expect others to try and open it,” WhatsApp head Will Cathcart and Messenger head Stan Chudnovsky wrote in Facebook’s response letter. “People’s private messages would be less secure and the real winners would be anyone seeking to take advantage of that weakened security. That is not something we are prepared to do.”
It’s a tricky issue, because in many ways these officials are correct. If Facebook is going to offer blanket encryption protections, then it needs to do a better job of eliminating criminal activity from its platform. However, these privacy services are undoubtedly a win for everyday users.
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