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DoJ Requests Facebook To Address Concerns About End-to-end Encryption Plan

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The U.S., UK and Australia have jointly urged Facebook to delay its plan to implement end-to-end-encryption across its messaging services unless it can ensure there is no reduction to user safety and also that government officials can access the content of private communications if required.

Facebook must also ensure that law enforcement will be provided lawful, court-authorized access to the content of communications in order to protect the public, particularly child users.

The request was made by the law enforcement officials of the three countries in an open letter addressed to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

The letter was signed by Attorney General William Barr, United Kingdom Home Secretary Priti Patel, Australia's Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton, and U.S. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan.

"In 2018, Facebook made 16.8 million reports of child sexual exploitation and abuse content to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), 12 million of which it is estimated would be lost if the company pursues its plan to implement end-to-end encryption," the letter said.

The letter also calls on Facebook to enable law enforcement to obtain lawful access to content in a readable and usable format, effectively providing authorities with backdoor access to encrypted messaging apps.

In March, Facebook said it would increasingly shift its focus away from public posts to encrypted, ephemeral communications on its trio of messaging apps - WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger. The move was part of the company's more privacy-focused approach.

Zuckerberg said he expects future versions of Messenger and WhatsApp to become the main way for people to communicate on the Facebook network. Facebook is focused on making both of these apps faster, simpler, more private and more secure, including with end-to-end encryption.

End-to-end encryption allows messages to be decrypted only by end users. As a result, service providers are unable to produce readable content in response to wiretap orders and search warrants.

End-to-end encryption also hinders law enforcement from gaining access to crucial electronic evidence, thereby enabling criminals to avoid apprehension.

The DOJ and other law enforcement agencies believe it is crucial for technology companies to include lawful access mechanisms in the design of their products or services.

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