Facebook said it would proceed with “end-to-end” encryption for its WhatsApp and Messenger services, rejecting a U.S. and Attorney General William P. Barr's plea to allow government access.
According to the New York Times, Facebook executives Will Cathcart and Stan Chudnovsky Facebook, who oversee the company's WhatsApp and Messenger, wrote that creating a so-called backdoor into their services for law enforcement would make their users less safe. “The ‘backdoor’ access you are demanding for law enforcement would be a gift to criminals, hackers and repressive regimes, creating a way for them to enter our systems and leaving every person on our platforms more vulnerable to real-life harm,” the executives said. At an afternoon event, Mr. Barr said dealing with problems that strong encryption created for law enforcement was one of the Justice Department’s “highest priorities.”
In October of this year, Attorney General Barr wrote a letter addressed to Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, to request that Facebook not proceed with its end-to-end encryption plan without ensuring there will be no reduction in the safety of Facebook users and others, and without providing law enforcement court-authorized access to the content of communications to protect the public, particularly child users.
"Facebook’s proposals would put at risk its own vital work that keeps children safe. In 2018, Facebook made 16.8 million reports of child sexual exploitation and abuse content to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), 12 million of which it is estimated would be lost if the company pursues its plan to implement end-to-end encryption. The concerns highlighted in this letter to Facebook are at the core of the Department of Justice’s Lawful Access Summit that will take place on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, on warrant-proof encryption and its impact on child exploitation cases," said the letter.
In addition, the letter noted that the "use of end-to-end encryption, which allows messages to be decrypted only by end users, leaves service providers unable to produce readable content in response to wiretap orders and search warrants. This barrier allows criminals to avoid apprehension by law enforcement by limiting access to crucial evidence in the form of encrypted digital communications. The use of end-to-end encryption and other highly sophisticated encryption technologies significantly hinders, or entirely prevents serious criminal and national security investigations."