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Facebook encryption threatens public safety, say ministers

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UK Home Secretary Priti Patel and counterparts in the US and Australia have sent an open letter to Facebook calling on it to rethink its plans to encrypt all messages on its platforms.

The policy threatens “lives and the safety of our children”, they said.

They said it could hamper international efforts to grant law enforcers faster access to private messages on social media, as agreed between the UK and US.

Facebook said “people have the right to have a private conversation online.”

The head of Facebook-owned WhatsApp Will Cathcart had previously posted on Hacker News: “End-to-end encryption protects that right for over a billion people every day.”

Facebook said it is “consulting closely with child safety experts, governments and technology companies and devoting new teams and sophisticated technology” to keep people safe.

The letter was signed by Ms Patel, the US Attorney General William P Barr, Acting US Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan and the Australian minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton. It comes off the back of a data access agreement between the US and the UK designed to remove the barriers to cross-border surveillance.

It allows British law-enforcement agencies to demand from US tech firms data relating to terrorists, child-sexual abusers and other serious criminals.

It is hoped it will dramatically speed up investigations – previously, the process of requesting data from US firms could take anything from six months to two years.

SourceBBC NEWS

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