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US Wants to Postpone Facebook Encryption Plans

postpone plans to further encrypt

The American Justice Minister, William Barr, asks Facebook to postpone plans to further encrypt its chat services. He does so in an open letter today published .

"This jeopardizes the safety of our citizens and societies, as it greatly limits the ability to detect business or illegal content and activities, such as child abuse and abuse." The delay should last until Facebook can guarantee that there is no danger to users and there is a way for investigative services to access citizens' communications. So in fact a back door.

Australia and Great Britain supported the request.

With this letter, the Ministry of Justice gives a new impetus to the debate about encryption. Tech companies and privacy advocates believe that end-to-end encryption is very important, for example, to protect journalists and activists. For years, governments have been pressing tech companies to give them access to user data.

Focus op privacy

Zuckerberg announced in March this year that he would like to focus his company more on privacy. Central is the connection of its three chat services - Facebook Messenger, Instagram Direct and WhatsApp - where the first two, just like Whatsapp, are provided with end-to-end encryption.
This form of encryption ensures that only the sender and receiver can read the content of the message.

 Both governments and Facebook themselves do not have access to the content of the messages. For WhatsApp, this was already introduced in 2016.

"End-to-end encryption protects all messages from more than one billion people a day," a Facebook spokesperson told The New York Times . "We are opposed to attempts by the government to build back doors because they undermine people's privacy and security." During a meeting with Facebook employees, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that this is one of the "most difficult decisions we have to make".

The letter comes a few days after a great story from The New York Times about online child abuse . Among other things, it mentions that the arrival of end-to-end encryption will make it more difficult to combat child abuse, because it is no longer possible to see what is going on in chats.


The letter states that Facebook sent 16.8 million reports to the US National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in 2018, more than 90 percent of all reports that year. "We understand that these reports, which are essential to protect children and tackle terrorism, will no longer come through if Facebook makes the changes," Barr writes in the letter.

Meeting at Justice

Later  there is a meeting at the US Department of Justice to discuss how encryption makes it more difficult for the government to gain access to information, with child abuse issues at the center. Allegedly representatives of Facebook are also present.

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