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U.K. Official Says Police Should Have Access to WhatsApp Messages

WhatsApp on a smartphone

On Sunday, United Kingdom Home Secretary Amber Rudd said during an interview for BBC, that the law enforcement should have access to the encrypted messages on WhatsApp. According to her, this messaging service, along with many others, often provide a safe place for terrorists to communicate. Her demand will most likely spark some controversy. Also, it will probably fuel even more the dispute regarding whether or not companies should allow the police access to the private messages from those apps.

A way for terrorists to communicate

For example, there is that situation on which Amber Rudd based her theory. That report according to which, the terrorist who killed four people near the parliament on Wednesday was communicating his plans via WhatsApp. The report is also stating that Khalid Masood had actually sent a message on the app just before conducting the horrendous attack. This is one of the clear situations which must be avoided. Rudd also specified that the authorities should make sure that apps like WhatsApp are not slowly becoming a safe haven for such attackers.

She also said that the intelligence services should have access to encrypted messages on such apps. This, way they would be able to stop those situations from ever happening again. A while ago, if someone wanted to know what their friend had been doing, it was enough to send a letter. Later, to call. Now, the situation is different. With all those apps, everybody can have access to a lot of things. And not everybody uses them for the right reasons. They can even become a means to facilitate terrorism.

An important meeting

On Thursday, Amber Rudd is going to have a very important meeting with some internet companies. The plan is to form an industry board. This board  will begin the process of taking down possibly terrorist content from their platforms. Rudd stated that this initiative was actually announced last year. However, the tech companies have done nothing to put it into practice.

Facebook bought WhatsApp in 2014. The messaging app encrypts end-to-end messages, calls and video calls. According to them, this encryption protocol does not allow any other person apart from the sender and the receiver to have access to a certain conversation.

The situation which Amber Rudd talked about also happened in the United States, last year. At the time, Apple and the FBI had a dispute regarding whether or not should the government have access to a private smartphone. The authorities requested assistance from Apple to unlick an iPhone which Syed Rizwan Farook used. Farook was one of the terrorists believed to have been involved in the attack from December 2015, in San Bernardino, California. However, Rudd specified that those two situations are completely different. According to her, the authorities will never ask a certain company to open a device for them. This access to private messages is more of a means to prevent other tragedies from happening and save lives. Meanwhile, WhatsApp announced that they are horrified by the London attack. They are reportedly working closely together with law enforcement in the investigation.

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