March 27, 2017
The U.K. is demanding access to encrypted messages on Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp in the wake of the terrorist attack in Westminster last week.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd said there should be “no place for terrorists to hide,” adding that intelligence agencies must be handed access to WhatsApp and other encrypted messaging services.
Rudd’s remarks, made on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show Sunday, come after three people were killed by Khalid Masood who deliberately drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge last Wednesday. He also killed a police officer on the scene before being gunned down by police.
Masood, 52, had sent a message on WhatsApp just minutes prior to the attack, according to the BBC report.
WhatsApp told the BBC it was “horrified at the attack” and would be co-operating with authorities. The company did not specify what that co-operation would entail.
Rudd said it is time for tech firms to step up.
“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,” Rudd told the BBC.
“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. But on this situation, we need to make sure that our intelligence services have the ability to get into situations like encrypted WhatsApp.”
The situation faced by the U.K. is markedly similar to the fight early last year between Apple and the FBI when the U.S. enforcement agency asked for access to data on the iPhone of one of the perpetrators of the deadly San Bernardino, Calif. terrorist attack. The December 2015 attack killed 14 people.
Rudd, who is to meet with a number of technology firms this week to discuss her concerns, said tech firms like Apple and Facebook need to realize the government is not asking for access to all of its data.
“We’re not saying ‘open up,’ we don’t want to go into the cloud, we don’t want to do all sorts of things like that,” she added. “But we do want them to recognize that they have a responsibility to engage with government, to engage with law enforcement agencies when there is a terrorist situation. We would do it all through the carefully thought-through, legally covered arrangements.”
Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.