Facebook and WhatsApp will be forced to share users’ encrypted messages with British police. The agreement is part of a new treaty between the US and the UK, set to be signed by next month. The accord will compel social media companies in the US to share information to support investigations into individuals suspected of serious criminal offenses. This includes terrorism and pedophilia. While these tech companies are being forced to share users’ messages, the move does not seem to lower the strength of end-to-end encryption.
Priti Patel, the home secretary of the UK, had already warned against Facebook‘s end-to-end encryption being used against criminals. Patel called on social media firms to develop “back doors” to give intelligence agencies access to their messaging platforms. “We oppose government attempts to build backdoor because they would undermine the privacy and security of our users everywhere,” Facebook said in a statement.
“Government policies like the Cloud Act allow for companies to provide available information when we receive valid legal requests and do not require companies to build back doors.” The US and the UK have agreed not to investigate each other’s citizens as part of the deal, reports Bloomberg. The report also notes that the US won’t be able to use information obtained from British firms in any cases carrying the death penalty. The details of this accord between the two countries were first reported by the Times.
This is not the first time that tech companies have been forced to help law enforcement. Australia passed a similar legislation in December that makes it mandatory to share encrypted communications in the case of suspected criminals. In May, Apple, Google, Microsoft, WhatsApp and others pushed back against the proposal by GCHQ that offered UK police a way to access private messages without breaking encryption. “End-to-end encryption helps protect that right and is fundamental to the value we provide to over a billion people every day,” Facebook said.