In the current context of the so-called encryption war, it appears that the government is trying to find a new way to reach its goals. After Apple has repeatedly refused to unlock the iPhone of the San Bernardino shooter, the popular WhatsApp might soon face the same problems.
The conflict will thus include a new court fight with the popular messaging application, which seems to be adding up to the dispute over security, privacy and encryption between the government and Silicon Valley.
Owned by Facebook, WhatsApp is an app meant for messaging and making phone calls by using the Internet. The company has added encryption to all conversations that take place via WhatsApp, and the Justice Department cannot read them anymore, even with the wiretap order from a judge.
It has been reported that last week the Justice Department discussed ways for proceeding in a criminal investigation, with the approval of a wiretap from a federal judge. However, the investigators crashed into the encrypted wall of the application.
Both entities have refused to comment on the matter, especially since the discussion was conducted under anonymity.
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation chief computer scientist Peter Eckersley, both the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigations are currently choosing the bets circumstances for fights where they will emerge victorious. In other words, they are waiting for a case that can put their demand in a favorable light.
In the case of WhatsApp, until 2014 the app could comply with the wiretap orders of the government, but since 2015 sophisticated encoding was added to its systems. Otherwise known as end-to-end encryption, it makes messages readable only by those who receive them. It appears that not even the company has access anymore to the discussions that take place on the app.
However, encryption does not only serve for the privacy of our discussions, but also for many businesses to protect important information from cyber attacks, identity thieves and hackers. Even the government uses the technology.
Furthermore, many also fear that if the Justice Department will succeed in its endeavor with Apple and thus gain access to the smartphone of the San Bernardino shooter, the government will move on to forcing various companies to remove the encryption from certain customers.
Whether the government will emerge victorious and start what technology analyst Chris Soghoian has named a “nuclear war with Silicon Valley” remains to be seen.
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