Facebook should put the brakes on plans to roll out an encrypted messaging service, officials from the White House, the U.K. and Australia urge.
“Security enhancements to the virtual world should not make us more vulnerable in the physical world,” U.S. Attorney General William Barr, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel and Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton write in an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The letter, slated to be made public Friday, was obtained on Thursday by Buzzfeed.
“We must find a way to balance the need to secure data with public safety and the need for law enforcement to access the information they need to safeguard the public, investigate crimes, and prevent future criminal activity,” the letter states. “Not doing so hinders our law enforcement agencies’ ability to stop criminals and abusers in their tracks.”
The officials are responding to Facebook's plan, announced in March, to pivot to a privacy-centric company by offering end-to-end encryption across Instagram, Whatsapp and Messenger.
Barr and the others are asking Zuckerberg to create back doors that would “enable law enforcement to obtain lawful access to content in a readable and usable format.”
Digital rights organizations criticized the officials' request, arguing that weakening encryption would make users less secure.
“Strong encryption remains the last line of defense against unlawful access to our data, and protects all users from identity theft, scams, and fraud,” Peter Micek, general counsel of Access Now, stated Thursday.
The Center for Democracy & Technology added that the government officials are “leveraging scare tactics in a concerted effort to weaken communications security globally and build in government surveillance.”