Tech giants have again locked horns with the UK government in the ongoing fight around message encryption.
This time, Meta – owner of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp – has fired back at Home Secretary Suella Braverman after she wrote a letter accusing the platform of providing criminals a place to prey on victims. Braverman singled out child abusers as one such group, claiming they had been using Meta’s encrypted messaging services to avoid detection.
In response, Meta argued that the very same security measures Braverman said were providing cover to criminals were protecting regular Brits from “hackers, fraudsters and criminals”.
It said that the “overwhelming majority of Brits already rely on apps that use encryption to keep them safe” and that: “We don’t think people want us reading their private messages.”
Meta has previously asserted that the technology needed to identify and root out predators could sit alongside end-to-end encryption; the two needn’t be mutually exclusive.
The company has even published its safety measures online, claiming it spent the past five years creating those such tools that could detect and combat abuse, without opening a ‘back door’ for law enforcers to read messages that senders believe to be private.
In fact, Meta says it’s providing more reports to law enforcement agencies than its peers and competitors, thanks to its “industry-leading work” on keeping people safe.
End-to-end encryption is already used on WhatsApp and is expected to be rolled out across Facebook Messenger before the end of the year. Previous disagreements with the UK government have seen many big tech firms threaten to leave the UK market altogether, claiming they would rather cease operating here than water down their encryption measures.
Offering a rather more conciliatory tone than in her original letter, Braverman went on to say in an interview with BBC Breakfast that whilst the government may soon have powers to direct companies to take necessary steps, she would “far rather work constructively with these social media companies [that] play a valuable part in our lives”.