In recent days, multiple reports emerged from data protection experts mentioning that, thanks to an upcoming U.S.-UK agreement, the authorities in these countries would finally have a way to access encrypted messages on instant messaging services such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.
According to reports, based on statements from
a source very close to the subject, Priti Patel, UK Home Minister is about to
sign an agreement that will force U.S. social media companies to turn over to
authorities, prosecutors and agencies intelligence any information deemed
necessary in combating terrorist activities and sexual crimes, among other
However, data protection specialists say that
what the potential information exchange agreement between the two nations is
not related to encryption on these platforms. Messaging services only collect metadata
(who sends the message, who receives it, the frequency of conversations, date
and time, among other data) that can be shared with government agencies with
the authorization of a court.
According to data protection specialists at the
International Institute of Cyber Security (IICS) this new agreement would only
allow the British authorities to request the metadata collected by the U.S., so
it does not imply that the platforms messaging must make changes to their
privacy policies, this agreement also does not imply a significant change in
It is now incredibly complex for intelligence
agencies to access the content related to an end-to-end encrypted conversation,
even when court orders are issued; that’s why legislators and agencies have
been trying for a while to create a scenario that allows them to access this
content with relative ease.
On the other hand, the companies providing
these services argue that it is unfeasible to create a backdoor that can be
exploited only during a judicial investigation; in other words, any access
point exploited by the authorities could also be exploited by threat actors.
Facebook has repeatedly expressed its
disapproval of the U.S. government’s attempts to create a backdoor on its
platforms, so intelligence agencies are not expected to be able to access this
content in the near future.