WhatsApp says it will leave the UK rather than weaken encryption under Online Safety Bill

The top of WhatsApp says the messaging app will depart the UK if it’s compelled to weaken its encryption requirements beneath the nation’s upcoming On-line Security Invoice.

WhatsApp chief Will Cathcart briefed reporters on Thursday (as reported by The Guardian, Politico, and Wired), criticizing the laws as essentially the most regarding set of on-line laws within the Western world.

“We’ve lately been blocked in Iran, for instance. However we’ve by no means seen a liberal democracy do this,” mentioned Cathcart, reviews The Guardian. “The fact is, our customers all around the globe need safety. Ninety-eight per cent of our customers are exterior the UK. They are not looking for us to decrease the safety of the product, and simply as a simple matter, it will be an odd selection for us to decide on to decrease the safety of the product in a method that will have an effect on these 98% of customers.”

“We’ve lately been blocked in Iran, for instance. However we’ve by no means seen a liberal democracy do this.”

WhatsApp’s warning follows related threats from one other encrypted messaging app, Sign. The president of Sign, Meredith Whittaker, said last month that the corporate “would completely 100% stroll [away from the UK] fairly than ever undermine the belief that folks place in us to supply a very personal technique of communication.”

Each Whittaker and Cathcart are responding to a provision inside the On-line Security Invoice that requires corporations use “accredited know-how” to scan customers’ messages for youngster sexual abuse materials or CSAM. The invoice doesn’t say how these scans could be applied, however safety researchers say they’re inconceivable to introduce with out breaking end-to-end encryption (a privateness normal adhered to by WhatsApp and Sign which means the content material of a message is viewable solely to the recipient and sender). Supporters of the invoice deny this.

Apple unveiled plans to scan customers messages for CSAM in 2021 however dropped the project the next 12 months after sustained criticism from the safety neighborhood. Critics warned that after any system to scan customers personal messages is launched, governments will slowly power corporations so as to add extra types of prohibited content material to their scans, eroding the requirements of personal communication.

The UK’s On-line Security Invoice has already been criticized for embodying fuzzy distinctions between unlawful and undesirable content material. The laws initially required tech platforms to reasonable what it referred to as “authorized however dangerous” content material, however this language was removed from the draft final November. In its present kind the invoice will nonetheless drastically develop the powers of the UK authorities to reasonable on-line platforms, although politicians and lawmakers proceed to tweak its wording. The invoice is expected to pass later this 12 months.

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