At a time when the Indian government has been defending its strict stance and concerns regarding traceability of WhatsApp messages, it garnered support from several countries across the globe.
A BuzzFeed report on October 4 said that a letter signed by three officials from the US, the UK and Australia has been sent to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckergberg. The letter, at large, talks about Facebook’s privacy-centric plans, which include end-to-end encryption across its suite of messaging apps, including WhatsApp.
The letter has been signed by US attorney general William Barr, UK home secretary Priti Patel, acting US home secretary Kevin McAleenan, and Australia’s minister for home affairs Peter Dutton. They said, “We are writing to request that Facebook does not proceed with its plan to implement end-to-end encryption across its messaging services without ensuring that there is no reduction to user safety and without including a means for lawful access to the content of communications to protect our citizens.”
The Indian government has been asking the same from Facebook and its group companies for quite some time now. The government’s concerns first stemmed after the Cambridge Analytica debacle and intensified after last years’ mob lynching incidents in several states, including Assam, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tripura, and West Bengal. It was alleged that fake news circulated on WhatsApp led to those unfortunate incidents.
The union minister for electronics and information technology Ravi Shankar Prasad, on a similar note, told ET, “What I have been pushing for is being done by America, England, Australia and others. They are pushing for decryption. Now we have global support as far as law enforcement is concerned, you have to do the decryption.”
The report added that this letter can open fresh communications between the government and Facebook over the issue. “If Facebook now tells us this cannot be done, we will refer them to the letter from their own attorney general, since Facebook is a US-registered company. We will ask them what actions have they taken on that,” the report quoted a senior government official as saying.
A Facebook spokesperson reportedly said, “We believe in the right for people to have a private conversation online. End-to-end encryption helps protect that right and is fundamental to the value we provide to over a billion people every day. We oppose government attempts to build backdoors because they would undermine the privacy and security of our users everywhere.”
WhatsApp’s global head Will Cathcart wrote in an internet forum on Saturday that the company will “oppose government attempts to build backdoors because they would weaken the security of everyone who uses WhatsApp including governments themselves.”