WhatsApp encryption under scrutiny after London attack

According to British news reports, Masood used the messaging service owned by Facebook minutes before the Wednesday attack that killed three pedestrians and one police officer and wounded dozens more.

Rudd's comments put WhatsApp and parent company Facebook in an awkward position: since WhatsApp rolled out default, end-to-end encryption on the app past year, it has said that no one including its own engineers can access messages sent through the service.

She continued: "We're not saying open up, we're not going into the cloud - we don't want to do all sorts of things like that".

On BBC One's Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Rudd said that providers of end-to-end encryption services, such as Telegram, Signal, and WhatsApp, provide a "secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other", and such services are "completely unacceptable". Germany this month proposed imposing fines on social networks such as Facebook if they fail to remove illegal hate speech from their sites. Several big clients, including the British government, have suspended their ad spending with Google in the last two weeks.

"However, compelling companies to put back doors into encrypted services would make millions of ordinary people less secure online", Killock added.

Rudd raised the issue with representatives of other European governments at a meeting Monday in Brussels to discuss the EU's approach to cybersecurity. With that, it's unlikely tech companies will favor creating a backdoor option for authorities to access information.

"While we believe the FBI's intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products", Cook wrote.

Some experts say Rudd's demands are a non-starter. They are. All messages communicated via WhatsApp have end-to-end encryption: they can not be read by anyone, including police and even WhatsApp itself, if intercepted.

A lot of messaging apps such as Apple iMessage, WhatsApp, Messenger, Line, Signal, Viber, and Telegram come with an encryption technology, but the usage differs from app to app.

In 2015, Apple refused an Federal Bureau of Investigation request to unlock the iPhone of of one of the killers in the San Bernadino terrorist attack.

"Even if you trust the US government, once this master key is created, governments around the world will surely demand that Apple undermine the security of their citizens as well", EFF, a civil liberties organization, had said during the Apple-FBI fight.

Apple refused the request and fought a court order ordering it to comply. The FBI eventually found another way around the lock.

As a result, some politicians, including Ms Rudd, are calling for more open access to private communications.

  • Arturo Norris