The messenger’s head says it would be “very hard” to comply with Britain’s Online Security Bill
It would be better to have instant messenger WhatsApp banned in Britain than make communications between users accessible to authorities, Will Cathcart, the head of WhatsApp at Meta, has said.
His remarks came after the Online Safety Bill, which would force WhatsApp to compromise its end-to-end encryption, was reintroduced in the UK parliament last week following a five-month delay. End-to-end encryption makes it impossible for private messages to be read by third parties or WhatsApp itself.
“The bill provides for technology notices requiring communication providers to take away end-to-end encryption – to break it,” Cathcart told The Telegraph on Saturday.
“The hard reality is we offer a global product. It would be a very hard decision for us to make a change where 100% of our users lower their security,” Cathcart said, adding that the company would rather face the risk of being forced out than scale back its privacy protections.
We feel the best trade off is to offer a secure service for all people that do have access to it – and to accept that in some countries we are banned.
The Online Safety Bill was first proposed by former Prime Minister Theresa May in 2019 and has undergone several changes. The government maintains that the legislation is necessary to track down terrorists and child abusers.
In a statement to the British media, a government spokesperson said that “end-to-end encryption cannot be allowed to hamper efforts to catch perpetrators of the most serious crimes.”
According to the government’s website, “as a last resort,” the bill would allow telecommunications regulator Ofcom to force platforms to “use highly accurate technology to scan public and private channels for child sexual abuse material.”
WhatsApp is banned or restricted in China, North Korea, Iran, Syria, Qatar, and the UAE.
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