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US wants Facebook to backdoor WhatsApp and halt encryption plans

Extreme closeup photo of a hand holding a smartphone using WhatsApp. (credit: WhatsApp)

Attorney General William Barr plans to once again make his case against end-to-end encryption for the masses, this time in a public call for Facebook to ensure that law enforcement can decrypt messages when investigating terrorists, child abusers, and other criminals.

Barr, along with counterparts from the UK and Australia, plan to publish an open letter on Friday that makes the case, BuzzFeed and later The New York Times reported on Thursday. The reports come six weeks after Barr said tech firms “can and must” backdoor encryption to keep it from degrading criminal investigations.

For more than a decade, the US Justice Department has warned encryption could hamstring its ability to fight enemies and conduct criminal investigations, a plight it describes as “going dark.” In 2016, the department renewed its push when it obtained a court order requiring Apple to help the FBI unlock the iPhone of one of the shooters in the San Bernardino, Calif., mass killings. Apple fought the order—arguing the code required could be misused—and the FBI eventually found another way to access the encrypted data.

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