Facebook is denying the request from Attorney General William Barr to give authorities a way to read encrypted messages. The company told Barr that it is moving forward with plans to enable end-to-end encryption on all of its messaging services. The tech giant also delivered the message in a letter dated Dec. 9, roughly two months after Barr and his foreign counterparts said that Facebook’s efforts would hamstring law enforcement around the world, particularly as they seek to investigate child sexual abuse.
“People’s private messages would be less secure and the real winners would be anyone seeking to take advantage of that weakened security, That is not something we are prepared to do,” Facebook wrote.
The industry has also united in opposition to demands from law enforcement for ways around encryption, emphasizing that so-called backdoors would introduce significant vulnerabilities into people’s devices and services and threaten their privacy. Moreover, law enforcement officials around the world have contended for years that encryption allows criminals and terrorists to go dark and avoid detection.
“I think all of us want devices that protect our privacy,” said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, as he opened the hearing. “Having said that, no American should want a device that becomes a safe haven for criminality.” He later threatened regulation if tech giants and law enforcement officials don’t develop a solution on their own: “My advice for you is to get on with it, because this time next year if we haven’t found a way, we will impose our will on you.”
Facebook’s goal is to integrate all of those services so that users can talk to each other across apps while delivering “end-to-end” encryption for all those conversations. The US, Britain, and Australia in October asked Facebook to “enable law enforcement to obtain lawful access to content in a readable and usable format.”
“Our understanding is that much of this activity, which is critical to protecting children and fighting terrorism, will no longer be possible if Facebook implements its proposals as planned,” they wrote.