- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Facebook fired back in a letter out Tuesday sent to U.S. and foreign officials opposed to the company planning to secure its users’ communications with end-to-end encryption.

The heads of Facebook’s WhatsApp and Messenger apps wrote the heads of the U.S. Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, as well as top officials in the Australian and British government, in response to their request that the company not implement end-to-end encryption across all its messaging services without ensuring a way for authorities to lawfully access user communications when needed.

“The ‘backdoor’ access you are demanding for law enforcement would be a gift to criminals, hackers and repressive regimes, creating a way for them to enter our systems and leaving every person on our platforms more vulnerable to real-life harm,” replied WhatsApp’s Stan Chudnovsky and Messenger’s Will Cathcart.

“It is simply impossible to create such a backdoor for one purpose and not expect others to try and open it,” added the Facebook executives. “People’s private messages would be less secure and the real winners would be anyone seeking to take advantage of that weakened security. That is not something we are prepared to do.”

Facebook announced in March that it planned to implement end-to-end encryption across all its services, which effectively allows messages to be transmitted in a way so that their contents can only be deciphered by the intended sender and recipient.

Law enforcement officials in the U.S. and abroad have complained that end-to-end encryption hinders their ability to intercept communications and has essentially become a way for criminals to converse online without their messages being seen by authorities.

Facebook’s letter came in response to related concerns raised in October by Attorney General Bill Barr, then-acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan, U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel and Australian Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton.

“Security enhancements to the virtual world should not make us more vulnerable in the physical world,” the government officials wrote at the time. “We must find a way to balance the need to secure data with public safety and the need for law enforcement to access the information they need to safeguard the public, investigate crimes, and prevent future criminal activity.”

More than 2 billion people use Facebook services each month, according to the company.

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