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
© Getty Images

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.

ADVERTISEMENT

"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 BarrWilliam Pelham BarrDemocratic Senators urge FTC to prevent coronavirus price gouging Maduro pushes back on DOJ charges, calls Trump 'racist cowboy' DOJ charges Venezuela's Maduro with drug trafficking 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 ZuckerbergZuckerberg, Gates team up to contribute M for research into coronavirus treatments Health experts embrace social media to fight coronavirus Hillicon Valley: Facebook launches portal for coronavirus information | EU sees spike in Russian misinformation on outbreak | Senate Dem bill would encourage mail-in voting | Lawmakers question safety of Google virus website 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.