ACLU asks court to unseal docs on US government demands to Facebook

The non-governmental agency seeks to stop US government pressure on technology and communications companies

Digital forensics experts from the International Institute of Cyber Security report that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a legal procedure to disclose judicial documents about the American government’s attempt to force Facebook to create an encryption backdoor on its messaging service Facebook Messenger.

This motion is related to a case filed during last summer, for which the Department of Justice (DoJ) conceal any related documents. This case deals with the DoJ attempt to obtain a federal court order with which they would have forced Facebook to include a backdoor in Messenger.

According to experts in digital forensics, the FBI sought to access the voice communications of suspected members of the criminal gang MS-13, active throughout North America. The research agency stated that it already had text messages from members of the gang, but it was impossible to access voice communications via Messenger, because they were protected with encryption.

The court did not issue this order, as Facebook took defensive measures, mentioning that complying with this mandate would be virtually impossible for the social network, as it would require investing a huge sum of money and rewriting its messaging application altogether.

Now, the ACLU wants an American court to reveal what happened in the secret judicial proceedings surrounding this case.

“People have to be heard about the laws that govern us”, the organization mentioned in the past few days. “During the past summer, a legal dispute, which we considered could have affected the private communications of millions of Americans, was completely discussed in secret”.

According to cybersecurity and digital forensics specialists, the ACLU seeks to establish a legal precedent, forcing the DoJ to publicly disclose this legal process. If successful, DoJ and the FBI will be prevented from trying to force similar legal processes against other companies in the technology and communications industry in the future.

This is the second time that the United States is trying to force a technological service provider to implement encryption backdoors in its developments, Apple being the company affected by pressure from the US authorities. However, while the FBI case against Apple was public domain, the Facebook Messenger case was very little known, until some media noticed several legal documents last September.

“In short, people have the right to monitor the type of surveillance that is implemented in their communications,” mention ACLU spokespersons. The ACLU’s motion was presented shortly before the US Vice-attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, asked for the implementation of backdoors in widely used technology services again.