In recent days, multiple reports emerged from data protection experts mentioning that, thanks to an upcoming U.S.-UK agreement, the authorities in these countries would finally have a way to access encrypted messages on instant messaging services such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.
According to reports, based on statements from a source very close to the subject, Priti Patel, UK Home Minister is about to sign an agreement that will force U.S. social media companies to turn over to authorities, prosecutors and agencies intelligence any information deemed necessary in combating terrorist activities and sexual crimes, among other felonies.
However, data protection specialists say that what the potential information exchange agreement between the two nations is not related to encryption on these platforms. Messaging services only collect metadata (who sends the message, who receives it, the frequency of conversations, date and time, among other data) that can be shared with government agencies with the authorization of a court.
According to data protection specialists at the International Institute of Cyber Security (IICS) this new agreement would only allow the British authorities to request the metadata collected by the U.S., so it does not imply that the platforms messaging must make changes to their privacy policies, this agreement also does not imply a significant change in American laws.
It is now incredibly complex for intelligence agencies to access the content related to an end-to-end encrypted conversation, even when court orders are issued; that’s why legislators and agencies have been trying for a while to create a scenario that allows them to access this content with relative ease.
On the other hand, the companies providing these services argue that it is unfeasible to create a backdoor that can be exploited only during a judicial investigation; in other words, any access point exploited by the authorities could also be exploited by threat actors.
Facebook has repeatedly expressed its disapproval of the U.S. government’s attempts to create a backdoor on its platforms, so intelligence agencies are not expected to be able to access this content in the near future.