The US government is trying to force Facebook Inc. violate the encryption algorithm in its messaging application, so that US law enforcement agencies can listen to the voice messages of the persons involved in criminal cases. Three people familiar with the situation told about this situation.
Such a precedent has already been, interlocutors of one of the news agencies explained, adding that Facebook is contesting the requirements of the US Department of Justice regarding the encryption algorithm in court. Case in closed mode is considered in California, the public details of this judicial proceedings are not available.
The judge, according to the interlocutors of the agency, has already heard arguments on the government’s request, in which the US authorities accuse Facebook in contempt of court. The reason for this was the refusal to comply with the government’s request for monitoring social network users.
Facebook and the US Department of Justice refused to comment on this information formally.
One source from the Reuters agency explained that the problems of Facebook Messenger are related to the investigation of the case of the MS-13 gang (Mara Salvatrucha – on the slang means a brigade of Salvadorian stray ants) – one of the most numerous street gangs in Central and North America that operates not only in the US, but also in Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
The President of the United States Donald Trump repeatedly mentioned in his speeches members of this gang, speaking of them as a symbol of weak American immigration policy. Also the head of the United States responded the representatives of MS-13 as animals.
If the US government wins the case against Facebook, it will be able to use similar arguments to force overwrite encryption algorithms for other popular among Americans messengers, for example, Signal (numbering a billion users) and Facebook’s WhatsApp (its functionality also allows recording text and voice messages). It needed to be emphasized that in the end it can have serious consequences for companies that consider themselves defenders of the privacy of their users. The information they transmit will no longer be encrypted, and the organizations themselves will be under pressure from the police and lawmakers.
A similar dispute between the authorities and the company Telegram Messenger LLP occurred earlier in Russia. It began last year after the Federal Security Service of Russia sent a request to the messenger’s administration for providing it with encryption keys to gain access to the correspondence of users. Telegram responded with a refusal, calling such a procedure technically impossible due to the peculiarity of encryption of messages, the history of which is stored only on users’ devices and is not duplicated on the company’s servers. After that, the messenger in Russia was accused of administrative offense and fined 800 thousand rubles (approximately $12000).