Popular messaging applications, including WhatsApp, Snapchat, iMessage and Facebook Messenger, could all potentially be banned in the UK if a new legislation is passed. The new law seeks to give the British intelligence agencies access to users’ encrypted communications. The proposed legislation, referred to as the Investigatory Powers Bill or the Snooper’s Charter seeks to ban encrypted messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, iMessage and WhatsApp unless the companies allow the UK government to access the information sent using these services.
The Snooper’s Act will be part of broad measures, to be introduced through a bill called Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) in 2014. DRIPA will come into effect in 31 December 2016, with other clauses relating to the security, intelligence and giving law enforcement agencies enough investigatory powers. Once in effect, law enforcement authorities will access user data without the permission of a judge, as long as they are investigating a crime or protecting national security. They would also be able to see the content of any messages by obtaining a warrant.
DRIPA used proposals from a previous bill introduced in Parliament in 2012 but rejected known as the Communications Data Bill or Snooper’s Charter. The Snooper’s Charter proposed the storage of all details of online communication in UK including the time, sender and recipient of communication as well as the location of the device, from which the messages were sent for a period of 12 months. This included information such as the first time, details of messages sent via social networking sites, calls made via the internet, gaming information as well as emails and phone calls.
Many social networking sites use end-to-end encryption aimed at protecting the privacy of the user, meaning the messages are only accessible to the sender and the recipient. The legislation has faced backlash from many UK residents who feel, the law is an impediment to their privacy.