Encryption, Law Enforcement and WhatsApp
WhatsApp, the world's largest instant messaging service, is owned by Facebook. The app allows users to send and receive instant messages and to place phone calls over the Internet. It has over a billion daily users.
Recently, the app service has taken the steps necessary to encrypt its customers' messages from start to finish; no one but the relevant users will be able to access messages. With its long tradition of wiretapping land line phones, federal law enforcement agencies have been chaffing at their inability to tap into the data contained in WhatsApp messages.
Apparently, a federal judge has approved a wiretap request involving WhatsApp in a non-terrorist criminal investigation. Like the iPhone in the San Bernardino case, the feds cannot access the data due to the company's ingenious encryption.
There will be a growing number of cases like these where the antiquated federal wiretapping statutes become increasingly ineffectual relative to the always-improving encryption software and privacy applications.
Should Congress pass new laws that would force private technology companies to develop software allowing law enforcement to access encrypted data through a back door? For their part, law breakers love the idea that the technology they are using ensures no one other than the intended will receive their messages.
So far, the federal government has elected not to drag WhatsApp into court to compel a resolution. Some tech experts believe they are waiting for the perfect storm to bring the right case into the courthouse.