White House weighs legislation to ban one of the best features of WhatsApp and Telegram

White House weighs legislation to ban one of the best features of WhatsApp and Telegram
After badmouthing Apple over the last few years and throwing a scare into Huawei (a nightmare that is not yet over), the Trump administration's next target could be the use of end-to-end-encryption in the U.S. Used on apps like Telegram and WhatsApp, end-to-end encryption means that messages sent from one user to another can only be read by the sender and recipient of the message. Not even the company running the messaging app can crack the code. The encryption is also used when Messages users send each other iMessages on iOS devices.

Politico reports that senior Trump administration officials are considering asking Congress to outlaw end-to-end encryption because it prevents law enforcement officials from investigating drug trafficking, child pornography, and terrorism. A meeting held by the National Security Council's (NSC) Deputies Committee could not reach a consensus on what action to take. Should legislation eventually be proposed, you can expect a passionate debate from those on either side of the issue. If a bill does pass, it will certainly dilute security features found on iOS and Android devices. It could allow hackers to more easily break into smartphones and tablets to steal personal data. It also would affect those being stalked and others hiding from abusive ex-spouses.

The report says that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is divided on the issue. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is said to understand the importance of using encryption to protect secure data, but ICE and the Secret Service are often stymied by encryption. It is also no surprise that the Justice Department and FBI say that it is more important to be able to catch criminals than to protect personal data. The Commerce and State Departments disagree and fear that there will be economic, diplomatic and security consequences if law enforcement can crack encrypted messages.

Stopping end-to-end encryption could make it easier for the Trump administration to spy on protesters

A bipartisan bill forcing tech firms to allow law enforcement to view encrypted messages was proposed by Senators Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) back in 2016 in the aftermath of the San Bernardino terrorist attack. A court ordered Apple to unlock the iPhone 5c that belonged to the shooter, Syed Farook. Apple refused to comply because doing so would require it to develop a special version of iOS that would allow the FBI to peak into Farook's phone. But the company was concerned that if this software fell into the wrong hands, all iPhone owners could have the personal data kept on their handsets hacked. The FBI eventually turned to a third party company and reportedly paid them a ton of cash to unlock the phone.

Some critics of the Trump administration worry that eliminating the use of end-to-end encryption will make it easier for the administration to learn more information about those who oppose the president. Consider that earlier this month, Telegram CEO Pavel Durov accused China of a cyber attack against the messaging app. The combination of Telegram's end-to-end encryption and the fact that it allows users to hold group chats with up to 200,000 members, allegedly left members of the Chinese government concerned that the app was being used by protesters to coordinate the time and place of protests.

Since Google doesn't offer end-to-end encryption, even with its RCS messaging platform beginning to roll out, Android users seeking such security will have to turn to the Google Play Store where they can choose from some third-party apps such as Signal, Facebook Messenger and the aforementioned Telegram and WhatsApp.



1. Subie

Posts: 2442; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

To be honest, I'm surprised something like this hasn't happened sooner.

23. audibot

Posts: 689; Member since: Jan 26, 2017

man am on the fence on this i think yes we need to see if terror attack is about to hit but then am like like hell no privacy

2. cmdacos

Posts: 4383; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

Why not include iMessage in the clickbait title?

3. Vancetastic

Posts: 1866; Member since: May 17, 2017

I’d think that would generate even more clicks, honestly

6. rossy

Posts: 48; Member since: Aug 23, 2013

Alan has Trump Derangement Syndrom. Legislation starts with Congress. The President's office can propose anything, but it is up to Congress to craft legislation. The middle of his article states the bipartisan legislation required law enforcement have access to encrypted messages but he hung it all on the bad orange man.

8. Back_from_beyond

Posts: 1485; Member since: Sep 04, 2015

Republicans are just backing every idiotic idea he comes up with because his Twitter rants can end their careers and for the most part it supports their agenda. Democrats on the other hand wouldn't dream of implementing something like this, because its a slippery slope towards totalitarianism, a very real concern under Trump. Makes me wanna move back to the Netherlands.

9. TheOracle1

Posts: 2340; Member since: May 04, 2015

@rossy you're completely wrong. Legislation can also start from the executive branch and Congress may modify and vote on it. Go back to Civics class. Meanwhile, this legislation is completely meaningless to the end user and only screws US companies. It certainly doesn't affect Telegram and other non-US apps.

17. rossy

Posts: 48; Member since: Aug 23, 2013

Congress cannot vote on anything that executive branch produces. Congress votes on a bill that they themselves produce which may include proposals from the executive branch.

20. TheOracle1

Posts: 2340; Member since: May 04, 2015

Oh dear! You really are ignorant. The Affordable Care Act as an example is called Obamacare for a reason. Medicare was introduced by Lyndon Johnson. Of course they can vote on it. You obviously failed Civics badly.

22. Crispin_Gatieza

Posts: 3186; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

Rossy, any citizen can ask his legislator to draft a bill. After review it goes to committee for more review. If approved it goes to the full chamber (House or Senate) and then the process starts all over again in the other chamber. It’s why it’s called “bi-cameral”. Geez, whatever happened to Schoolhouse Rock?

4. Vancetastic

Posts: 1866; Member since: May 17, 2017

No, no, and even no. Should we just start saying “heil Trump” now, or wait?

5. RocketDoc

Posts: 21; Member since: Jul 24, 2018

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. Under the 4th amendment, the government possesses no absolute right to wiretap; the fact that earlier communications methods made it possible in some circumstances does not mean that new methods must be crippled to permit it.

7. gigicoaste

Posts: 466; Member since: Feb 21, 2016

impossible to happen.

18. Vancetastic

Posts: 1866; Member since: May 17, 2017

History is full of people saying that..

10. Be_Mine unregistered

So, will the US Government ban themselves for spying if they indeed pass the Bill?

15. giff24

Posts: 1; Member since: Jul 01, 2019

Governments always want to spy on people and any technology that prevents them from doing so is considered suspect. Encryption has been in their crosshairs for years (google Key Escrow). Problem is that this is a very difficult and involved problem, rife with really bad and insecure solutions. Here's a good essay on the subject google - Doctorow "Theresa May wants to ban crypto"

16. inFla

Posts: 216; Member since: Aug 17, 2018

This article reads more like the writers paranoid view.

19. tokuzumi

Posts: 1999; Member since: Aug 27, 2009


21. jacky899

Posts: 434; Member since: May 16, 2017

Well NSA is responsible for almost all the vulnerabilities built into modern software and hardware and now the gov wants to legally remove all methods of privacy. This is insane. If the US wasnt the most powerful country in the world, US products would have been banned worldwide for spying and backdoors.

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