WhatsApp, the Dominant Messaging Platform in the U.K., Tells the Government to Bugger Off Regarding Legislation That Would Ban End-to-End Encryption

Shiona McCallum and Chris Vallance, reporting for the BBC News:

WhatsApp says it would rather be blocked in the UK than undermine its encrypted-messaging system, if required to do so under the Online Safety Bill. [...]

The government said it is possible to have both privacy and child safety.

Cryptographers and privacy experts agree that end-to-end encryption is the only way to guarantee privacy. Dum-dum elected officials around the globe have a persistent “it must be possible” fantasy that it’s possible to create an encryption system with backdoor keys that would only be available to “the good guys”.

Undermining the privacy of WhatsApp messages in the UK would do so for all users, Mr Cathcart said.

“Our users all around the world want security - 98% of our users are outside the UK, they do not want us to lower the security of the product,” he said. And the app would rather accept being blocked in the UK.

“We’ve recently been blocked in Iran, for example. We’ve never seen a liberal democracy do that,” he added.

It’s not even a matter of willingness. It’s not technically possible for WhatsApp or Signal or iMessage or any platform that’s end-to-end encrypted to use some weaker backdoor-able encryption on a country-by-country basis. The platform is either truly end-to-end encrypted or it’s not. They can’t just flip and switch and let U.K. WhatsApp users use an entirely different non-E2E protocol. The principled stand in the name of cryptographically guaranteed privacy isn’t happening now, in response to this deeply misguided legislation — it happened at the outset of these platforms, when they were designed from the ground up with E2E.

Thursday, 9 March 2023