Will Cathcart, the head of WhatsApp at Meta, has stated that it is preferable to have the instant messenger WhatsApp banned in the United Kingdom than to make conversations between users accessible to authorities.
Following a five-month delay, the Online Safety Bill, which would force WhatsApp to break its end-to-end encryption, was reintroduced in the UK parliament last week. End-to-end encryption makes it difficult for other parties or WhatsApp itself to access private communications.
“The measure provides for technological notifications forcing communication providers to remove end-to-end encryption – to break it,” Cathcart said on Saturday to The Telegraph.
“The harsh fact is that we provide a worldwide product.” It would be a difficult choice for us to make a move in which 100% of our users reduce their security,” Cathcart said, adding that the firm would rather face the danger of being driven out than reduce its privacy safeguards.
Former Prime Minister Theresa May proposed the Online Safety Bill in 2019 and it has since undergone multiple amendments. The administration claims that the measure is required to apprehend terrorists and child abusers.
A government spokeswoman told the British media that “end-to-end encryption cannot be permitted to impede attempts to capture perpetrators of the most heinous crimes.”
According to the government’s website, the measure would empower telecoms regulator Ofcom to “employ extremely accurate technology to check public and private channels for child sexual abuse content” as a “last option.”
WhatsApp is prohibited or limited in China, North Korea, Iran, Syria, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.