US pressures tech giants over encrypted messages

Published October 5, 2019, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Agence France-Presse 

The US government on Friday urged tech giants to allow police to read encrypted messages, saying access was essential to prevent serious crime despite privacy concerns.

Worries have run high ahead of the November 2020 polls following revelations of a wide-ranging misinformation campaign on Facebook (AFP/File / DENIS CHARLET / MANILA BULLETIN)

After Facebook rejected giving access to law enforcement agencies, US Attorney General William Barr upped the pressure by issuing an industry-wide call.

“Making our virtual world more secure should not come at the expense of making us more vulnerable in the real world,” Barr said in a speech in Washington.

Barr dismissed accusations that the government was seeking a “backdoor” to everyone’s private social media messages.

“We are seeking a front door. We would be happy if the companies providing the encryption keep the keys,” he said.

Tech giants must abandon “the indefensible posture” that a technical solution was not possible and should develop products to balance cybersecurity with public safety, Barr said.

Facebook already encrypts WhatsApp messages from end-to-end — meaning only the sender and recipient can read them — and is working to extend the technology to other apps in its group, including Messenger and Instagram.

Facebook said it was intent on introducing the feature without granting oversight to law enforcement agencies.

“We hope that industry will be an ally, not an adversary,” Barr said.