WhatsApp and Other Messaging Apps Stand Against Surveillance Measures
WhatsApp, Signal, and other prominent messaging services have called on the British government to scrap the Online Safety Bill (OSB).
They are worried that the bill could harm end-to-end encryption, a process which allows a message to only be read on the sender and the recipient’s app and nowhere else, per a report by the BBC.
Government officials want government agencies to push the platforms to surveil users, in order to clamp down on child abuse images.
The government claims it’s possible to maintain both child safety and privacy.
“We support strong encryption,” a government official declared, “but this cannot come at the cost of public safety.”
“Tech companies have a moral duty to ensure they are not blinding themselves and law enforcement to the unprecedented levels of child sexual abuse on their platforms. The Online Safety Bill in no way represents a ban on end-to-end encryption, nor will it require services to weaken encryption.”
End-to-end encryption (E2EE) features the strongest level of security due to how nobody other than the sender and intended recipient can read the information in the message.
Even the app operator can’t unscramble messages as they move across its systems. The messages can only be decrypted by the people in the chat.
In an open letter published on April 18, 2023, the operators of encrypted messaging apps cautioned: “Weakening encryption, undermining privacy and introducing the mass surveillance of people’s private communications is not the way forward.”
The letter was signed by:
Element chief executive Matthew Hodgson
Oxen Privacy Tech Foundation and Session director Alex Linton
Signal president Meredith Whittaker
Threema chief executive Martin Blatter
Viber chief executive Ofir Eyal
head of WhatsApp at Meta Will Cathcart
Wire chief technical officer Alan Duric
In the law’s current iteration, the OSB opens the door to “routine, general and indiscriminate surveillance” of personal messages, according to the letter’s assessment of the legislation in the question.
The bill carries the risk of “emboldening hostile governments who may seek to draft copycat laws”.
Although the British government says technological means can be found to surveil messages without subverting the privacy of E2EE “the truth is that this is not possible”.
“Global providers of end-to-end encrypted products and services cannot weaken the security of their products and services to suit individual governments,” the letter declared.
“There cannot be a ‘British internet’ or a version of end-to-end encryption that is specific to the UK.”
There’s clearly a supranational war against tech freedom taking place. This requires a full-fledged defense of our tech rights. The Internet and the applications it has facilitated are some of the last bastions of freedom that we can turn to. If we lose these fights,