WhatsApp and iMessage could be banned under new surveillance plans

27 January 2015OpinionPoliticsTechnology

Andrew Griffin, reporting for The Independent earlier this month:

David Cameron could block WhatsApp and Snapchat if he wins the next election, as part of his plans for new surveillance powers announced in the wake of the shootings in Paris.

The Prime Minister said today that he would stop the use of methods of communication that cannot be read by the security services even if they have a warrant. But that could include popular chat and social apps that encrypt their data, such as WhatsApp.

Apple’s iMessage and FaceTime also encrypt their data, and could fall under the ban along with other encrypted chat apps like Telegram.

The British Prime Minister proposes a system where trusted entities gain the ability to intercept communications when they have a legal reason to do so. In theory this sounds rational, especially when compared to the alternative – violent crimes like the events that took place in Paris.

Realistically, such a policy is terrible:

  • Who decides which trusted entities have access to your communications?
  • What happens if an untrusted entity gains access to your information through a hack or by exploiting a software bug?
  • How can you be assured that the trusted entities won’t abuse their power?
  • And what’s stopping bad actors from simply creating their own private applications with full end-to-end encryption?

A knee-jerk legislative reaction to tragic events could unfortunately lead to controversy and regrets.

(Via Daring Fireball)