Thursday 23 November 2017

Department of Justice may target WhatsApp over encryption


Mark O'Beirne

The Department of Justice seemingly has WhatsApp in its sights over message encryption, though it hasn't become as public as its fight with Apple.

The Department of Justice has been embroiled in a battle with Apple over encryption and access and may soon go after another technology heavyweight, Facebook via WhatsApp.

According to a report in the New York Times, the government has been trying to work out how best to deal with WhatsApp and its encrypted messages. In the last year, WhatsApp has added encryption to phone calls and messages over the service, keeping them free from prying eyes and ears, even with a judge's wiretap order.

You may assume it wouldn't come to this, but as recently as this past week, according to officials, the Justice Department hit a brick wall in a continuing criminal investigation. While a federal judge approved a wiretap, WhatsApp's encryption stood in the way.

It looks like the government has only received an initial wiretap order, which demands that WhatsApp hands over messages that it can't access. A follow-up would most likely resemble what Apple is facing.

Unlike the case against Apple, this is being kept under wraps for the time being. That could change if the Justice Department continues to go after WhatsApp, which means taking on parent company, Facebook. In bad news for the government, Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg has backed Apple in its ongoing fight against the FBI and the Justice Department.

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