British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Monday he would consider banning encrypted messaging services like Snapchat and WhatsApp unless they provide access to Britain’s intelligence services.
“Are we going to allow a means of communications which it simply isn’t possible to read?” Cameron asked, The New York Times reported. “My answer to that question is: ‘No, we must not.’”
The move comes amid a heated debate over government access to people’s online activities following the recent terrorist shooting in Paris, which left 12 members of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo dead.
“The attacks in Paris demonstrated the scale of the threat that we face and the need to have robust powers through our intelligence and security agencies in order to keep our people safe,” Cameron said.
The prime minister’s comments also come days before he is set to meet with President Obama to talk about the threats posed by hackers.
Fears of government surveillance following the revelations by government leaker Edward Snowden have driven consumer desire for encrypted messaging services.
Major tech companies like Apple and Google have introduced enhanced encryption into their recent smartphones. Apple claims its new operating system locks out government officials from accessing any data stored on the phone. The FBI has lashed out at Apple over the decision, telling the company its move will facilitate crime and hinder officials from conducting legitimate investigations.
Cameron said he would take the step to ban encrypted online communication tools by 2016 if his party is elected in Britain's May election. It’s part of larger legislative efforts to require telecom operators and online service providers to store more information on users’ activities.