The Apple-FBI fight may just be the opening salvo in a broader war over encryption, as technology companies continue to lock up their users’ messages, photos and other data to shield them from thieves and spies — and, incidentally, criminal investigators.
WhatsApp, the globally popular messaging system owned by Facebook, has already run into trouble on this front in Brazil. WhatsApp encrypts all user messages in “end to end” fashion, meaning that no one but the sender and recipient can read them. Brazilian authorities arrested a Facebook executive recently after the company said it couldn’t unscramble encrypted messages sought by police.
US officials are debating how to enforce a similar wiretap order for WhatsApp communications in a US criminal case, the New York Times reported . WhatsApp started as a way to exchange written messages over the Internet, but it has added services like photo-sharing and voice calling, while gradually building encryption into all those formats.
Spokesmen for WhatsApp and the US Justice Department declined comment on the Times report, which said the wiretap order had been sealed to keep details secret.