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U.K. wants to force Internet companies to decrypt messages

Published May 28th, 2015 8:45PM EDT
iMessage, Facebook, WhatsApp, Hangouts Encryption

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The U.K. government has not given up on the idea that its secret services must be given access to communications between individuals who are suspects in an ongoing investigation, even if said communications are protected by encryption.

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Google, Apple and Facebook will be required to hand over encrypted messages from suspects, The Telegraph says, via a new Investigatory Powers Bill.

Under the proposed new law, intelligence agencies including MI5, MI6 and GCHQ will be able to obtain a warrant from the Home Secretary that will force an Internet company to “break down its encryption protection” for a suspect’s communication. The publication says that security and intelligence agencies claim encryption features on modern devices can prevent them from seeing what suspects are planning.

If asked, services including WhatsApp, Snapchat and others will have to share messages sent and received by a suspect, regardless of what privacy-enhancing features they might have in place, such as chat or call encryption.

Interestingly, one Reddit user points out that Google and WhatsApp need to enable end-to-end encryption “sooner rather than later” to prevent anyone from snooping on chats. Google has recently confirmed that Hangouts doesn’t have end-to-end encryption, meaning the company would be able to decrypt messages.

The Telegraph does mention Apple as one of the companies that will have to decrypt communications under the new law, likely referring to its iMessage and FaceTime apps, but these services are already protected by end-to-end encryption, so Apple wouldn’t actually be able to do it.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.


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