It looks like the U.S. Government's next target could be WhatsApp, if recent reports are to be believed. You see, because of the instant messaging (IM) service's end-to-end encryption, government officials are reportedly considering “legal proceedings similar” to those leveled against Apple, according to the New York Times.
According to the New York Times (via AppleInsider), the Justice Deparmtent is indeed considering the move currently. Citing WhatsApp's end-to-end encryption for both IMs and voice-over-IP (VoIP) calls, the Times explains that this presently inhibits the government from executing warrants on WhatsApp messages. This practice of course helps investigators in solving crimes; all the government is able to pick up, due encryption, is “gibberish,” former federal prosecutor Joseph DeMarco complained to the Times. “The only way to make this not gibberish is if the company helps,” he added.
Apple's iMessage is also encrypted in this way, indicating that Cupertino could fight a battle against the U.S. Government on two fronts soon. Though, for now, it seems WhatsApp is the more significant target due to its substantially higher user base.
The president speaks, but the crowds don't listen
The news comes following President Obama's comments concerning the Apple case at SXSW. There, he warned against taking an “absolutist” view of the case, and as you might expect, the SXSW crowd didn't exactly side with the president's views. Rep. Issa, R-Calif., commented on Obama's SXSW appearance in an interview with USA Today, noting:
It was tone deaf. He did not read the room in that portion of the answer. There's just no way to create a special key for government that couldn't also be taken advantage of by the Russians, the Chinese, or others who want access to the sensitive information we all carry in our pockets everyday.- Rep. Issa, R-Calif.
For privacy experts, this is precisely the problem: any solution created by Apple for the FBI could so easily be misused, putting iOS users at extreme risk. It'll be interesting to see how this one plays out, though it certainly seems the government is determined to get its way.
And if Apple does create the backdoor (and WhatsApp's lines of communications are tapped), you can bet the crosshair falls over every other major company out there in no time at all.