Facebook tells Trump administration it will not create messaging 'backdoor' for law enforcement

Facebook tells Trump administration it will not create messaging 'backdoor' for law enforcement
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Facebook on Tuesday told the Trump administration that it would not create a backdoor for law enforcement in its messaging encryption, saying that doing so would threaten users' safety.

In a letter from the executives in charge of Messenger and WhatsApp, Stan Chudnovsky and Will Cathcart, the company declined to open its encryption to law enforcement.

“Cybersecurity experts have repeatedly proven that when you weaken any part of an encrypted system, you weaken it for everyone, everywhere. The ‘backdoor’ access you are demanding for law enforcement would be a gift to criminals, hackers and repressive regimes, creating a way for them to enter our systems and leaving every person on our platforms more vulnerable to real-life harm,” they wrote in the letter.

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"It is simply impossible to create such a backdoor for one purpose and not expect others to try and open it."

The letter, obtained by The Hill shortly before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on encryption, came in response to a request from Attorney General William BarrBill BarrFederal prosecutor speaks out, says Barr 'has brought shame' on Justice Dept. Why a backdoor to encrypted data is detrimental to cybersecurity and data integrity FBI official who worked with Mueller raised doubts about Russia investigation MORE and acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan joined with British Home Secretary Priti Patel and Australian Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton.

In their request from early October, the officials urged Facebook to hold off on incorporating end-to-end encryption across its various messaging services.

They warned that encrypted messaging could be useful to criminals like child predators and frustrate law enforcement's efforts to go after them.

In the letter they asked Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Productivity, fatigue, cybersecurity emerge as top concerns amid pandemic | Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board | Google to temporarily bar election ads after polls close Conservative groups seek to block Facebook election grants in four swing states: report Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board MORE to take steps to enable “law enforcement to obtain lawful access to content in a readable and usable format," escalating the battle between Washington and Silicon Valley over balancing privacy and law enforcement effectiveness.

The nation's largest tech companies have long maintained that encryption is an essential privacy protection for users.

The technology protects messages from surveillance and makes companies that use it unable to access the contents of users' messages. It also prevents law enforcement from accessing suspects' communications, even when they have a subpoena.