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New call for WhatsApp to decrypt messages on request following UK terror attack

WhatsApp should not “provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate,” says UK Home Secretary.

Published onMarch 27, 2017

UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd has called for the government to be permitted access to end-to-end encrypted files following last week’s terror attack in London.

It is believed that Khalid Masood, the British extremist responsible, used WhatsApp several minutes before launching the attack outside parliament on Wednesday, though to what end isn’t clear.

Rudd, who spoke on the BBC’s Android Marr show, said it was “completely unacceptable” that the government was not permitted to read such messages and said that WhatsApp should not “provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other.” Rudd has arranged a meeting on Thursday, March 30 to discuss the matter with tech company leaders.

WhatsApp is rolling out fingerprint authentication to beta users right now
A WhatsApp app icon closeup on a smartphone. This is the featured image for the most common apps on android

The Investigatory Powers Act 2016 bill, also know as the Snoopers Charter, was passed in the UK last year to give the government more power to investigate online activity. After facing strong opposition, the forced de-encryption of messages wasn’t included as part of that legislature, but Rudd has refused to rule out the possibility that new laws would be passed if this isn’t addressed. Rudd did, however, say that she wanted to try to win over tech companies without resorting to those measures.

“These people have families, have children as well,” she said. “They should be on our side, and I’m going to try to win that argument.”

Update: Simple text statuses are coming back to Whatsapp

Critics have said Rudd’s proposal would be ineffective and potentially make millions of ordinary people less safe online.

WhatsApp, meanwhile, has said that it was “horrified” by the London attack and that it is “cooperating with law enforcement” on the matter.

Where do you stand on the end-to-end encryption? Let us know in the comments.

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