Is WhatsApp Next in the Encryption Debate with the Government?

The battle with Apple is still going strong, and now WhatsApp is also in the spotlight.

The New York Times recently reported that the United States justice department is now going after WhatsApp – a messaging app that allows users to send encrypted messages. In this case a federal judge approved a wiretap to access messages, but investigators are unable to read the messages because of end-to-end encryption in place in WhatsApp (only the end user can see encrypted messages sent over the app). WhatsApp is owned by Facebook.

Currently, the Department of Justice is figuring out how to proceed in this case: “As recently as this past week, officials said, the Justice Department was discussing how to proceed in a continuing criminal investigation in which a federal judge had approved a wiretap, but investigators were stymied by WhatsApp’s encryption.”

Although all the details aren’t available yet, this definitely looks to be another important case with the potential to set a precedent on accessing encrypted information: “Some investigators view the WhatsApp issue as even more significant than the one over locked phones because it goes to the heart of the future of wiretapping.“

This news is concerning, although unsurprising. When news of the government’s attempt to access encrypted messages on an iPhone broke, we expressed strong concern that this access wouldn’t be for a single phone or a single case. Now the government hasn’t only gone after more phones, but they’re seeking access across new platforms. We will be watching closely to see what the government does next in this WhatsApp case. In the meantime you can read more details from the EFF.

Sources: The Next Web, Ars TechnicaNew York Times