U.S. Justice Department Pushes For “Lawful Access” To Users’ Facebook Messages

This week, the U.S. Justice Department published an open letter to Facebook asking the social media giant to cancel its plans to fully encrypt its messaging services. Essentially, the government wants a legal backdoor to eavesdrop on any online communication it wants.

According to the letter, signed by Attorney General William Barr and several other officials from Australia and the UK, Facebook could provide a safe haven for serious crimes like child abuse and terrorism if it follows through with its privacy plan.

“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 said. “This puts our citizens and societies at risk by severely eroding a company’s ability to detect and respond to illegal content and activity… It also impedes law enforcement’s ability to investigate these and other serious crimes.”

The officials said they support Facebook’s efforts to protect user data, but that a “balance” must be struck between privacy and public safety. It’s easy to see their point; even the most privacy-obsessed users wouldn’t argue against the need to monitor criminal activity on the site. However, Facebook has proven time and again that it has difficulty keeping user protection front and center in its priorities.

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