WhatsApp Criticized For Providing Terrorists a ‘Place To Hide”

Amber Rudd, the UK Home Secretary, has accused internet-based communications company WhatsApp – which is owned by Facebook – of giving terror suspects a “place to hide.”

WhatsApp has been criticized for failing to help police following the revelation that Khalid Masood used the encrypted messaging service shortly before running down numerous people and stabbing a policeman to death in London last week.

Rudd spoke out over the weekend, according to a new report from BBC, saying that police and other agencies should be granted access to encrypted messages with a view to countering future terrorist attacks.

Later this week, Rudd is due to meet with technology leaders to talk about how the government should be able to access messages protected by end-to-end encryption – something already dropped from the controversial snooper’s charter.

Rudd’s promise to “call time” on such operations comes after it was discovered the Westminster attacker’s final message was inaccessible due to WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption system.

The Home Secretary says she has confronted firms including Facebook and Google after London police said they have been unable to access Masood’s final text message, or even decipher who he sent it to. Rudd described the situation as “completely unacceptable.”

“We need to make sure that organizations like WhatsApp, and there are plenty of others like that, don’t provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other,” said Rudd.

“It used to be that people would steam open envelopes or just listen in on phones when they wanted to find out what people were doing, legally, through warranty,” she added. “But on this situation we need to make sure that our intelligence services have the ability to get into situations like encrypted WhatsApp.”

World-traveling, tech-savvy, music-producing writer obsessed with all things Apple, video games, and the finer things in life, e.g. mezcal and tacos. When I'm not writing I'm exploring new places, eating new foods, and generally trying to be a decent human.

  • swotam

    The problem with governments using events like this to make this sort of request is that the request itself goes far beyond what they state in their request.

    They aren’t asking for access to the encryption keys so that they can retroactively investigate if there is a reason to do so and if they have the appropriate warrant, they are asking so that they can essentially vacuum up ALL the data sent and received by WhatsApp users pretty much forever and then (supposedly) only look at this data if they have a warrant, etc.

    Of course, as Snowden has shown us all, that isn’t how it happens at all. Once they have it, they can do whatever the hell they want with it without asking anyone for permission.

    Those who don’t have a problem with that should be re-evaluating how they think about their personal privacy.