U.K. Home Secretary Amber Rudd said during an interview with the BBC that services like WhatsApp and its end-to-end encryption tools were “completely unacceptable” in the fight against terror.
The British official later clarified she was not calling for open access to the platform, or for developers to create some sort of exclusive backdoor to trace messages. She did say, though, that WhatsApp and other communication giants must be aware of their responsibility with governments and intelligence agencies.
Rudd’s claims have fueled once more the debate of how much access is too much for security bodies. The issue of online privacy and user rights in the U.S. and the world is a heated one, particularly in lieu of recent legislation setbacks in the American Senate.
The U.K. wants to know why the attacker used WhatsApp
Last Wednesday, a 52-year-old man drove a car into a crowd near Britain’s Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London. Three people died as a result of the incident, and a police officer was stabbed to death by the attacker later that day.
The perpetrator was posthumously identified as Khalid Masood, and law enforcement agents have learned interesting details about the attack during the investigation.
Most notoriously, perhaps, is the fact that Masood apparently was online in WhatsApp just minutes before he carried out the terror attack at the Westminster Bridge.
His status leaked online, showing he was last connected on Wednesday at 14:37 local time. That has police and intelligence agencies wondering about whether this last connection had something to do with the horror some people would live soon thereafter.
Some speculate he could have been reporting back to an accomplice, or receiving confirmation orders to go ahead with the attack. However, no one will know for sure unless officials manage to get the messages.
Amber Rudd herself uses the encrypted messaging app
In a rather ironic twist of fate, the U.K. Home Secretary was also found using WhatsApp, which caused quite a backlash online after her remarks during interviews with the BBC and Sky News over the weekend.
While many were skeptical at first about the screenshot of Amber Rudd’s chat window, the Home Office later confirmed it was real without explicitly saying so in a statement about the communication platform’s use.
“THE HOME SECRETARY WAS CLEAR THAT THERE SHOULD BE NO SAFE SPACE FOR TERRORISTS TO COMMUNICATE ONLINE. TO SUGGEST SHE WAS TALKING ABOUT THE USE OF COMMUNICATION SERVICES MORE GENERALLY MISSES THE POINT,” a spokesperson said.