UK Shelves Controversial Plans to Monitor WhatsApp Texts

Online Safety Bill UK proposes government access to WhatsApp Messages

The United Kingdom (UK) government has relaxed its stance in seeking to gain access to citizens WhatsApp messages. The proposal contained in the Online safety bill to scan messaging apps for harmful content has been shelved for now.

The bill proposed WhatsApp and other platforms like Signal should hand over messages on request to law enforcement. Additionally, it sought to actively monitor user communications for child protection or anti-terror purposes. The controversial bill is seen by critics as a threat to users’ privacy.

However, the decision to halt the proposal is not permanent. For now, the government promises to implement the law when it is “technically feasible” to do so. Experts claim this may not be possible in the near future.

A notice can only be issued where technically feasible and where technology has been accredited as meeting minimum standards of accuracy in detecting only child sexual abuse and exploitation content,”: said Junior Arts and Heritage Minister Lord Stephen Parkinson

WhatsApp Promises not to Compromise Security

End-to-end” encryption is used in messaging services to prevent anyone but the recipients of a communication from being able to decrypt it. For encryption, WhatsApp uses the Signal Protocol that was developed by Open Whisper Systems.

The fact remains that scanning everyone’s messages would destroy privacy as we know it. That was as true last year as it is today. WhatsApp will never break our encryption and remains vigilant against threats to do so.” : stated Will Cathcart, Meta’s head of WhatsApp.

Meta said complying with the UK law would mean lowering the security for users across the world. WhatsApp had always indicated it would refuse to comply with requirements in the online safety bill. The bill attempts to outlaw end-to-end encryption. Moreover, WhatsApp had threatened to quit the UK in the event it was compelled by law to scan user messages.

Meta stated that due to end-to-end encryption, WhatsApp has been blocked in some countries like Iran.

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