As Apple’s legal battle with the FBI over the right to hack into a locked iPhone rages on, it looks like the U.S. government have another target in mind too – WhatsApp.
WhatsApp are the latest tech firm battling a U.S. government order to lift security measures, the Daily Mail reports.
In the Apple case, the FBI want to compel the company to create new software to break into an iPhone 5C used by one of the terrorists involved in last year’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, California.
They believe it contains valuable information which they currently can’t access because the device is locked with a pass-code.
However, the case with WhatsApp reportedly does not involve terrorism.
According to a Saturday report in the New York Times, investigators in a sealed criminal case tried and failed to wiretap a suspect’s WhatsApp messages – despite a federal judge’s order to access the data.
Two years ago, WhatsApp upgraded its security after partnering with Open Whisper Systems (a company who, ironically, are funded by the U.S. government), and now all WhatsApp messages sent between Android devices are end-to-end encrypted, which means that not even parent company Facebook can access the contents.
Former prosecutor Joseph DeMarco told the New York Times the issue of end-to-end encrypted phone calls is a great concern to prosecutors, especially given that the terrorists behind the Paris attacks are believed to have used WhatsApp and another encrypted messaging app, Telegram, to evade law enforcement.
Even so, victory for the U.S. government and FBI in either the Apple or the WhatsApp case could set a dangerous precedent and could potentially give them the right to hack into anyone’s messages, which is precisely what the companies’ bosses want to avoid.
Although WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum has yet to comment on his firm’s own legal battle, he did throw his support behind Apple’s Tim Cook in February, saying:
We must not allow this dangerous precedent to be set – our freedom and our liberty is at stake.
Well said, Jan.