Justice Department considers wiretapping fight with WhatsApp amid Apple-FBI row

Posted:
in iPhone
The U.S. government is at odds with yet another Silicon Valley firm thanks to encrypted communications, this time targeting Facebook-owned messaging superpower WhatsApp over federal wiretapping statutes.




In the wake of WhatsApp's move to add end-to-end encryption to text messages and VoIP calls made through its service, law enforcement officials have been unable to execute wiretapping warrants on WhatsApp users. Though the Justice Department has yet to decide on a course of action, the government is contemplating legal proceedings similar to those in which it is currently embroiled with Apple, according to the New York Times.

As with the Apple case, investigators were able to execute warrants on WhatsApp exchanges until the company began adding encryption in 2014.

As noted by the Times, wiretapping has a long history as an important investigative tool and many in the law enforcement community are worried about losing these capabilities.

"You're getting useless data," former federal prosecutor Joseph DeMarco told the paper, referring to intercepting encrypted communications. "The only way to make this not gibberish is if the company helps."

Apple itself has been caught up in similar debates over its iMessage application. iMessage is also encrypted end-to-end, and the company has no way to decode messages in transit.

While Apple handles billions of iMessages each day, WhatsApp is a much larger service overall. The company has more than 1 billion users around the world, and in some countries WhatsApp is the de facto messaging standard.

Highlighting the international implications, a Facebook executive in Brazil was arrested earlier this month over the company's failure to comply with a court order to turn over WhatsApp data.

"We are disappointed that law enforcement took this extreme step," WhatsApp said in a statement after the executive's arrest. "WhatsApp cannot provide information we do not have."
MacsAlwaysicoco3
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 35
    Whatsapp may need to be moved outside the U.S. so that they would not need to answer to any request by U.S. law enforcement. This means US companies will need to rely on foreign companies to maintain their security since foreign companies do not need to comply with any US demand for a back door. How ironic.
    jbdragonceek74MacsAlwayslatifbpjony0moreck
  • Reply 2 of 35
    brakkenbrakken Posts: 677member
    So, companies that use encryption would have to provide the basic software algorithms and code to the doj/fbi/nsa so they could develop their own decryption protocols? Like a head-start on nefarious elements of society that would still develop their own encryption anyway.

    Just trying to figure out a way that we can keep our safety and security, and law enforcement can still collect necessary data to fulfill their duties.
  • Reply 3 of 35
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,005member
    First they came for the iPhones, but I did not have an iPhone so I did nothing...

    Then they came for WhatsApp, but I did not use WhatsApp so I did nothing...
    chabigiSRSmwhitejbdragonpalomineMacsAlwaysration alzoetmbslprescotticoco3
  • Reply 4 of 35
    chabigchabig Posts: 624member
    brakken said:
    Just trying to figure out a way that we can keep our safety and security, and law enforcement can still collect necessary data to fulfill their duties.
    I'm not quite sure what you're saying. The encryption algorithms are widely known, but useless without the keys. That's fundamentally why encryption works. There is no way to have both security and access at the same time. Playing security against safety is setting up a false dichotomy so we won't think about the loss of liberty we suffer if those engaged in this power grab are successful.
    jbdragonstevehMacsAlwayslatifbpzoetmbicoco3manfred zorntdknoxmoreck
  • Reply 5 of 35
    ceek74ceek74 Posts: 323member
    Whatsapp may need to be moved outside the U.S. so that they would not need to answer to any request by U.S. law enforcement. This means US companies will need to rely on foreign companies to maintain their security since foreign companies do not need to comply with any US demand for a back door. How ironic.
    Agreed.  If you can't beat 'em, GTFO.
    tdknox
  • Reply 6 of 35
    revenantrevenant Posts: 491member
    The U.S. intelligence agencies did it to themselves. NSA and ultimate snooping was not that long ago. 
    MacsAlwaysicoco3jony0tdknoxmoreck
  • Reply 7 of 35
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,680member
    Everyone has privacy or no one does. Get better hackers, DOJ. 
    MacsAlways
  • Reply 8 of 35
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,005member
    jungmark said:
    Everyone has privacy or no one does. Get better hackers, DOJ. 
    That is, if any are willing to work for you post-Snowden.
    icoco3
  • Reply 9 of 35
    spacekidspacekid Posts: 168member
    The likely result will be the ability for the police to get access to content on a phone they have in custody with a warrant. Another variation would be the ability to install a "key logger" or some other type of software on a device with a valid warrant.

    If an external company's software does not comply, potentially they could be forbidden to operate in the US or be installed on US phones. Obviously there are ways around that but they would mainly be targeting the major apps.
  • Reply 10 of 35
    Somebody said a society willing to give freedom for security will find they have neither.
  • Reply 11 of 35
    curt12curt12 Posts: 41member
    "There is nothing new in the realization that the Constitution sometimes insulates the criminality of a few to protect the privacy of us all." -- Antonin Scalia Arizona v. Hicks (1987)
    zoetmbSpamSandwichtdknox
  • Reply 12 of 35
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,031moderator
    The whole situation needs to be thought through from the ground up.  Here's a scenario I play in my mind to get my head around this.  

    Imagine there's a bad guy out there with an idea in his head for a Dr. Evil super weapon that could do enormous damage to the world.  The bad guy keeps this knowledge to himself, storing the designs for the weapon only on his personal phone, which is protected with strong encryption.  And then the bad guy dies.  End result, no harm, no foul.  In this scenario, his phone served merely as an extension of his mind, allowing him to flesh out his ideas in a document stored on his phone rather than relying solely upon his own imperfect memory.  Because he died before ever communicating his ideas beyond his own mind and his secure phone the world is safe from this super weapon, until someone else independently comes up with the same idea.  And while he was living, the world was safe from his super weapon as long as he did nothing to share the idea and design with others who could help him build it.  

    Now let's imagine an alternate scenario, where the bad guy with the super weapon design instead shares the idea and designs beyond the sanctuary of his mind and secure smartphone.  It's when a dangerous plan is shared with others who can act upon it that the information represents a danger to the world.

    So this is where you might want to draw a line.  Information stored under strong encryption on a smartphone or other personal device might be treated as an extension of our minds, sacrosanct from forced inspection.  But information communicated out to the world, where it can be put into motion and effect, should not retain the same rights to perfect privacy.  If I enter the name and phone number of a known terrorist into my contacts list, this should be private and protected information.  But if there's a record of my having placed or received a call from that terrorist, then this indicates a potential of threat, that I might be collaborating with the terrorist.  And so the fact of the actual communication is what government should be fighting to access (via the phone company and not via my handset), not the fact that I merely have the terrorist's contact information on my phone.  And the actual text or voice communications I had with the terrorist, representing the actual communications that might have spread a dangerous idea among multiple people, this too should be of interest to law enforcement, also accessed via the telecommunications provider.  So I understand the whole wiretapping concept, with proper warrant and cause.  But I think it should cover the actual communications between potentially [suspected] conspirators, not the content on their phones which potentially includes information they never shared with anyone, and therefore represents their private thoughts, with the phone's encrypted storage acting as a proxy for their memories.
    edited March 2016 ration altdknox
  • Reply 13 of 35
    adrayvenadrayven Posts: 460member
    Whatsapp may need to be moved outside the U.S. so that they would not need to answer to any request by U.S. law enforcement. This means US companies will need to rely on foreign companies to maintain their security since foreign companies do not need to comply with any US demand for a back door. How ironic.
    People will just use non-us based chat apps anyway. As they get banned, they will just move to another app. This is a useless exercise in futility. The true irony is that once Apple creates this code, the DoJ has already shown it's willingness to compel Apple and other companies to hand over code. This won't be in Apple's hands for long.

    The final kick in the teeth is the US Go'vt (FBI/DoJ) using terror tactics to get their way; Do this or you're NOT an American, you support terrorists, or we will own you, or .. or.. You know, how terrorists use terror to get their way.. Now the FBI/DoJ are using similar tactics of fear to get their way. Really sick.
    radarthekaticoco3ration altdknox
  • Reply 14 of 35
    ArtNArtN Posts: 1member
    Somebody said a society willing to give freedom for security will find they have neither.
    Ben Franklin is quoted as stating "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

    baconstangtdknox
  • Reply 15 of 35
    adhiradhir Posts: 50member
    "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." -- Ben Franklin Interesting article on the quote's historical context: http://www.npr.org/2015/03/02/390245038/ben-franklins-famous-liberty-safety-quote-lost-its-context-in-21st-century
    zoetmbtdknox
  • Reply 16 of 35
    johnnashjohnnash Posts: 128member
    The whole situation needs to be thought through from the ground up.  Here's a scenario I play in my mind to get my head around this.  

    Imagine there's a bad guy out there with an idea in his head for a Dr. Evil super weapon that could do enormous damage to the world.  The bad guy keeps this knowledge to himself, storing the designs for the weapon only on his personal phone, which is protected with strong encryption.  And then the bad guy dies.  End result, no harm, no foul.  In this scenario, his phone served merely as an extension of his mind, allowing him to flesh out his ideas in a document stored on his phone rather than relying solely upon his own imperfect memory.  Because he died before ever communicating his ideas beyond his own mind and his secure phone the world is safe from this super weapon, until someone else independently comes up with the same idea.  And while he was living, the world was safe from his super weapon as long as he did nothing to share the idea and design with others who could help him build it.  

    Now let's imagine an alternate scenario, where the bad guy with the super weapon design instead shares the idea and designs beyond the sanctuary of his mind and secure smartphone.  It's when a dangerous plan is shared with others who can act upon it that the information represents a danger to the world.

    So this is where you might want to draw a line.  Information stored under strong encryption on a smartphone or other personal device might be treated as an extension of our minds, sacrosanct from forced inspection.  But information communicated out to the world, where it can be put into motion and effect, should not retain the same rights to perfect privacy.  If I enter the name and phone number of a known terrorist into my contacts list, this should be private and protected information.  But if there's a record of my having placed or received a call from that terrorist, then this indicates a potential of threat, that I might be collaborating with the terrorist.  And so the fact of the actual communication is what government should be fighting to access (via the phone company and not via my handset), not the fact that I merely have the terrorist's contact information on my phone.  And the actual text or voice communications I had with the terrorist, representing the actual communications that might have spread a dangerous idea among multiple people, this too should be of interest to law enforcement, also accessed via the telecommunications provider.  So I understand the whole wiretapping concept, with proper warrant and cause.  But I think it should cover the actual communications between potentially [suspected] conspirators, not the content on their phones which potentially includes information they never shared with anyone, and therefore represents their private thoughts, with the phone's encrypted storage acting as a proxy for their memories.
    Quite honestly if I were a Dr Evil super smart guy then I'd not be storing my evil plans on a smartphone to begin with, what if I drop it in the tank with the laser beam equipped sharks?

    Humor aside - The Feds will continue to press this from multiple directions until they get what they are looking for or are told No by the supreme court.  Hopefully our courts will side with the will of the people rather than what politics and/or law enforcement thinks is the best for the country, but I'm not holding my breath.


    ration altdknox
  • Reply 17 of 35
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,005member
    The whole situation needs to be thought through from the ground up.  Here's a scenario I play in my mind to get my head around this.  

    Imagine there's a bad guy out there with an idea in his head for a Dr. Evil super weapon that could do enormous damage to the world.  The bad guy keeps this knowledge to himself, storing the designs for the weapon only on his personal phone, which is protected with strong encryption.  And then the bad guy dies.  End result, no harm, no foul.  In this scenario, his phone served merely as an extension of his mind, allowing him to flesh out his ideas in a document stored on his phone rather than relying solely upon his own imperfect memory.  Because he died before ever communicating his ideas beyond his own mind and his secure phone the world is safe from this super weapon, until someone else independently comes up with the same idea.  And while he was living, the world was safe from his super weapon as long as he did nothing to share the idea and design with others who could help him build it.  

    Now let's imagine an alternate scenario, where the bad guy with the super weapon design instead shares the idea and designs beyond the sanctuary of his mind and secure smartphone.  It's when a dangerous plan is shared with others who can act upon it that the information represents a danger to the world.

    So this is where you might want to draw a line.  Information stored under strong encryption on a smartphone or other personal device might be treated as an extension of our minds, sacrosanct from forced inspection.  But information communicated out to the world, where it can be put into motion and effect, should not retain the same rights to perfect privacy.  If I enter the name and phone number of a known terrorist into my contacts list, this should be private and protected information.  But if there's a record of my having placed or received a call from that terrorist, then this indicates a potential of threat, that I might be collaborating with the terrorist.  And so the fact of the actual communication is what government should be fighting to access (via the phone company and not via my handset), not the fact that I merely have the terrorist's contact information on my phone.  And the actual text or voice communications I had with the terrorist, representing the actual communications that might have spread a dangerous idea among multiple people, this too should be of interest to law enforcement, also accessed via the telecommunications provider.  So I understand the whole wiretapping concept, with proper warrant and cause.  But I think it should cover the actual communications between potentially [suspected] conspirators, not the content on their phones which potentially includes information they never shared with anyone, and therefore represents their private thoughts, with the phone's encrypted storage acting as a proxy for their memories.
    These superweapons already exist and they are held by all of the superpowers. 
  • Reply 18 of 35
    spacekidspacekid Posts: 168member
    curt12 said:
    "There is nothing new in the realization that the Constitution sometimes insulates the criminality of a few to protect the privacy of us all." -- Antonin Scalia Arizona v. Hicks (1987)
    Except the Constitution doesn't protect everybody all of the time:
    4th Amendment
    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

  • Reply 19 of 35
    icoco3icoco3 Posts: 1,459member
    spacekid said:
    curt12 said:
    "There is nothing new in the realization that the Constitution sometimes insulates the criminality of a few to protect the privacy of us all." -- Antonin Scalia Arizona v. Hicks (1987)
    Except the Constitution doesn't protect everybody all of the time:
    4th Amendment
    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    Please show me where I must assist them?  Lets not forget the 5th amendment.
    SpamSandwichtdknox
  • Reply 20 of 35
    This is idiotic. The government has no "right" to wiretapping. The have the right to tap if they can after due process. Perhaps the public needs a "back door" to tap the government phones, after all the FOI gives us access to all but "classified" information. Why can't I classify my information too. Perhaps it's time to make explicit the right to privacy in the form of a constitutional amendment instead of relying on the 4th and 14th amendments since the politicians don't seem to get it.
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