While the Justice Department wages a public fight with Apple over access to a locked iPhone, government officials are privately debating how to resolve a prolonged standoff with another technology company, WhatsApp, over access to its popular instant messaging application, officials and others involved in the case said.
No decision has been made, but a court fight with WhatsApp, the world’s largest mobile messaging service, would open a new front in the Obama administration’s dispute with Silicon Valley over encryption, security and privacy.
WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, allows customers to send messages and make phone calls over the Internet. In the last year, the company has been adding encryption to those conversations, making it impossible for the Justice Department to read or eavesdrop, even with a judge’s wiretap order.
As recently as this past week, officials said, the Justice Department was discussing how to proceed in a continuing criminal investigation in which a federal judge had approved a wiretap, but investigators were stymied by WhatsApp’s encryption.
The Justice Department and WhatsApp declined to comment. The government officials and others who discussed the dispute did so on condition of anonymity because the wiretap order and all the information associated with it were under seal. The nature of the case was not clear, except that officials said it was not a terrorism investigation. The location of the investigation was also unclear.
To understand the battle lines, consider this imperfect analogy from the predigital world: If the Apple dispute is akin to whether the F.B.I. can unlock your front door and search your house, the issue with WhatsApp is whether it can listen to your phone calls. In the era of encryption, neither question has a clear answer.
Some investigators view the WhatsApp issue as even more significant than the one over locked phones because it goes to the heart of the future of wiretapping. They say the Justice Department should ask a judge to force WhatsApp to help the government get information that has been encrypted. Others are reluctant to escalate the dispute, particularly with senators saying they will soon introduce legislation to help the government get data in a format it can read.
Whether the WhatsApp dispute ends in a court fight that sets precedents, many law enforcement officials and security experts say that such a case may be inevitable because the nation’s wiretapping laws were last updated a generation ago, when people communicated by landline telephones that were easy to tap.
“The F.B.I. and the Justice Department are just choosing the exact circumstance to pick the fight that looks the best for them,” said Peter Eckersley, the chief computer scientist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit group that focuses on digital rights. “They’re waiting for the case that makes the demand look reasonable.”
A senior law enforcement official disputed the notion that the government was angling for the perfect case, and said that litigation was not inevitable.
This is not the first time that the government’s wiretaps have been thwarted by encryption. And WhatsApp is not the only company to clash with the government over the issue. But with a billion users and a particularly strong international customer base, it is by far the largest.
Learn more: WhatsApp Encryption Said to Stymie Wiretap Order
The Latest on: Encryption privacy
via Google News
The Latest on: Encryption privacy
- Encryption, Our Last Line of Defenseon December 8, 2019 at 10:10 am
Encryption is fundamental to our daily life. Practically everything we do online makes use of encryption is some form. Access to our financial transactions, health records, government services, and ...
- Current encryption algorithms still strong, NIST official sayson December 6, 2019 at 12:53 pm
There's no near-term danger that modern tools will be able break current encryption methods ... wide gap," Scholl told members at a recent Information Security Privacy Advisory Board meeting. "We ...
- Encryption Software Market is Booming Worldwide | Key Players: IBM, Microsoft, Symantec, Thales e-Security, Trend Microon December 6, 2019 at 12:37 pm
This digital information is sent over the Internet to other computers. Portable document format is one of the world's most widely used file formats and to maintain the privacy of records, this file ...
- Encryption Software Market Share with Industry Research Report 2017 to 2026on December 6, 2019 at 4:59 am
The increasing spending on data protection in BFSI and defense sectors in the region further to also promote encryption software market growth in coming years. However, Asia-Pacific is expected to ...
- Hawk Security Limited began selling a hardware-protected external SSD drive with AES 256 XTS military grade encryptionon December 6, 2019 at 4:35 am
For more than two years, “Hawk Security” has been developing software and hardware to reliably protect the privacy of its customers, which has been subsequently integrated into Hawk S-Drive. As a ...
- End-to-end encryption is politics, not privacyon December 6, 2019 at 3:17 am
Policymakers should recognize that there are a variety of privacy and security technologies and encourage their further development. The emergence of law-free zones Attorney General Barr noted that ...
- StrongSalt Open Privacy API: Searching and sharing encrypted data in cloud and enterprise appson December 4, 2019 at 7:36 pm
In a move to address today’s major problem behind privacy – making encryption usable – StrongSalt announced the first Open Privacy API for searching and sharing encrypted data in cloud services and ...
- Government coy on metadata encryption exemption for telcoson December 4, 2019 at 7:29 pm
“The exemptions to this encryption requirement being handed out to telecommunication companies show the reality of this regime - that it is a huge, complicated, and expensive imposition on their ...
- StrongSalt Cracks the Privacy Problem with First Open Privacy API, Making Encryption Usable in the Cloudon December 3, 2019 at 6:31 am
SUNNYVALE, Calif. & LAS VEGAS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--In a move to address today’s major problem behind privacy - making encryption usable - StrongSalt (https://www.strongsalt.com) announced today the first ...
- StrongSalt Open Privacy API allows searching and sharing of encrypted dataon December 3, 2019 at 6:10 am
Cloud-based encryption software company StrongSalt today announced its Open Privacy application programming interface for searching and sharing encrypted data in cloud services and enterprise ...
via Bing News