That cross-Atlantic data-sharing treaty is happening, and the Department of Justice (DoJ) has written to Facebook asking it to break encryption in all its messaging products in an open letter signed by the UK's Priti Patel, Australia's Peter Dutton and, of course, the US Attorney General William Barr.
Obviously it doesn't put it like that, believing in some magical unicorn solution where innocent people can have their private chats protected while criminals can be monitored at all times. Indeed, the DoJ press release puts it like this:
"The letter requests 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-authorised access to the content of communications to protect the public, particularly child users."
We know you already know the problem with this contradictory sentence, but on the off-chance anybody at the Home Office is reading (and join in if you know the words): there's no such thing as a backdoor that can only be accessed by the 'goodies'. You break encryption for one person, you break it for everyone, and it's only a matter of time before that secret doorway resembles the entrance to a Wetherspoons at Happy Hour.
Then, of course, smart criminals looking to hide their activities stop using WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram anyway, and the only people left suffering are those who don't have criminal acts to hide. Well, innocents and really dumb criminals - but if you're stupid enough to keep using a service the government has made insecure when you have something to hide, then the chances are your criminal masterplan was always on shaky ground anyway.
Facebook has made no secret of the fact that this is a hill it's very much willing to die on. As recently as last week, when the news of a cross-Atlantic data-sharing agreement broke, it was making lots of pro-privacy noises.
"End-to-end encryption helps protect that right and is fundamental to the value we provide to over a billion people every day," a Facebook spokesperson said in a widely-shared statement. "We oppose government attempts to build back doors because they would undermine the privacy and security of our users everywhere."
It's time to see where the real power lies: Capital Hill or 1 Hacker Way. Place your bets now. µ
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