WhatsApp in UK: is it the end of end-to-end encryption?

WhatsApp UK spying lawDuring the past few months, WhatsApp encryption has been long debated by UK Government,  creating controversial reactions in the public opinion. And now the UK Government has introduced a law that requires WhatsApp and iMessage to break their own security, the Independent reports. What’s happening?

A new draft of the Investigatory Powers Bill (or Snooper’s Charter) has been re-written and, despite lot of criticism, it includes a clause that allows  the removal of end-to-end encryption. This kind  of encryption is the technology used by services such as WhatsApp, Facetime and iMessage and that guarantees their users to communicate securely.

The Government assures that this specific clause will be used only where it is ‘practicable, adding that the law will only oblige technology companies to weaken a security system that they themselves decided to apply. But that’s not all. In fact the bill also asks that internet companies keep track of everything that their users have looked at for an entire year so to allow the Government to access that information.

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Obviously the technology companies have complained and the bill was criticised even by charities like Privacy International, that argues that no real changes had been made to guarantee people’s security. That’s what Gus Hosein, executive director of Privacy International, said: “It would be shameful to even consider this change cosmetic. The Bill published today continues to adhere to the structure and the underlying rationale that underpinned the draft IP Bill, despite the criticism and lengthy list of recommendations from three Parliamentary Committees.”

“The continued inclusion of powers for bulk interception and bulk equipment interference – hacking by any other name – leaves the right to privacy dangerously undermined and the security of our infrastructure at risk. Despite this, the Home Office stands by its claim that the Bill represents “world-leading” legislation. It is truly world-leading, for all the wrong reasons.”

Once again, it seems that there is a thin line dividing what’s right and what’s wrong for our safety. Technology companies seem more inclined to guarantee their users’ privacy (a clear example is what’s happening in America between Apple and FBI), while governments claim the right to access users’ data for public safety reasons.

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