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GOP senator slams WhatsApp for turning on encryption

GOP senator slams WhatsApp for turning on encryption
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Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonTim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls Opposition to refugees echoes one of America's most shameful moments White House defends CDC outreach to teachers union MORE (R-Ark.) is slamming messaging platform WhatsApp for turning on end-to-end encryption for all of its users.

“The WhatsApp and Facebook decision to add end-to-end encryption to all of WhatsApp’s services with no secure method to comply with valid search warrants continues a dangerous trend in the tech and data world,” he said in a statement Wednesday. “We cannot allow companies to purposefully design applications that make it impossible to comply with court orders.

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“I strongly urge WhatsApp and Facebook to reevaluate their decision before they help facilitate another terrorist attack.”

WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook and is particularly popular outside the United States, said on Tuesday that it would start offering encryption for its users as the default setting. That will apply to the different types of messages on the service, which include video and voice.

“Every day we see stories about sensitive records being improperly accessed or stolen,” WhatsApp founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton said in a post announcing the change. “And if nothing is done, more of people's digital information and communication will be vulnerable to attack in the years to come."

With its decision, the company is putting itself front-and-center in a debate over how law enforcement should have access to encrypted data.

Apple and the FBI recently engaged in a legal battle over whether the tech giant should be compelled to write code that would help the agency access encrypted data on an iPhone used by one of the attackers in the San Bernardino, Calif., shooting late last year.

The FBI ultimately cracked the phone through another method and withdrew its legal request.

But lawmakers are still likely to keep debating the issue. Cotton was strongly in the FBI’s camp during the conflict and reportedly argued with Apple CEO Tim Cook at an event earlier this year.

WhatsApp, for its part, made it clear that it sides with those who favor strong encryption.

“While we recognize the important work of law enforcement in keeping people safe, efforts to weaken encryption risk exposing people's information to abuse from cybercriminals, hackers, and rogue states,” the founders wrote on Tuesday.