The New York Times reports that the Facebook-owned company’s end-to-end encryption has frustrated officials who have not been able to access the messages.
In an ongoing case, the paper reports, a federal judge has approved a wiretap telling the company to hand over messages that relate to an active investigation.
It’s believed the investigation isn’t related to terrorism, but the encryption method means the content of the messages can’t be accessed by WhatsApp. End-to-end encryption protects user data, messages in WhatsApp’s case, with only the sender and recipient able to access it.
It’s possible the Department of Justice could obtain a second court order telling the company to decrypt the messages. If this is the case the situation will run in parallel to the ongoing FBI and Apple case.
On 22 March lawyers from both Apple and the FBI will put arguments to a federal court following an order from a magistrate that Apple should create an operating system to allow the FBI to access the iPhone of San Bernardino terrorist Syed Farook.
The ongoing argument has seen both organisations make accusatory public filings. The FBI has said it is only asking Apple to create an OS to access one specific phone; Apple has contented that making such an operating system would set a “dangerous” precedent.
While many details of the latest demands on WhatsApp are largely unknown, the New York Times reports that details of the case are still under seal and not publicly available.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation said the WhatsApp case, if it progresses any further, would represent a “dangerous legal attack on encryption”. A blogpost from the civil liberties group argued the case would likely be considered under a different law to that of the FBI and Apple.
Both WhatsApp and the Department of Justice have declined to comment on the case.
However, WhatsApp founder Jan Koum has supported Apple in its dispute with the FBI. Koum, posting to his Facebook page, previously said: “Billions of people share their most personal, intimate information using services like ours, and they expect all of us to keep it safe from criminals and other bad guys.
“Asking a single company to undermine the security of its product for an investigation threatens the security of all of us in the long run,” Koum continued.
Source : http://www.wired.co.uk