WhatsApp chief Will Cathcart has refused to comply with the requirements of the UK’s new cybersafety bill, which aims to ban Peer-to-peer encryption technology used in chat apps including WhatsApp. Speaking during his visit to the UK to meet with lawmakers to discuss the new legislation, Cathcart described the law as the most dangerous law currently being discussed in the Western world, according to a report in The Guardian.
Cathcart stressed that the company will not respond to government requirements regarding decryption, stressing that application users around the world want security and privacy.
He said that it is unreasonable to reduce the application’s security level in a way that affects these users, adding that 98% of the application’s users are outside the United Kingdom, referring to the possibility of the company’s withdrawal from the British market if the law is activated.
End-to-end encryption is the most secure technology for preserving users’ privacy, as the technology used in messaging applications prevents anyone from decrypting messages except for the conversational parties themselves. WhatsApp cannot read messages sent through its service, which makes it difficult to comply with legal requests to hand over messages to official authorities, as the new law gives the British government the power to demand the removal of encryption.
By law, the government or the British Telecommunications Authority can require WhatsApp to implement content moderation policies, which is impossible to comply with without decryption. And if the company refuses to comply, it may be subject to fines of up to 4% of the total annual company income of Meta, which owns the application, unless the company withdraws completely from the British market.
At the same time, controversy over the use of end-to-end encryption is growing, as governments and law enforcement agencies demand access to encrypted communication to combat illegal activities such as terrorism and child sexual abuse. However, privacy advocates argue that weakening encryption will threaten individual privacy rights and make it easier for criminals to obtain their victims’ sensitive information.
The new law was designed to deal with illegal activities on social media platforms, but has been criticized for its potential impact on individual privacy rights. The law requires social media companies to remove illegal content within a specified time frame, and to implement measures to prevent such content from circulating on the platforms.
The British government says the new law aims to protect children from harmful content online and to boost users’ digital safety.
Since its launch, end-to-end encryption technology has raised concerns among governments around the world, as the technology prevents governments from viewing messages exchanged by users. As a result, some countries, including China, North Korea and Iran, have blocked their citizens from accessing WhatsApp and other applications that adopt the same encryption technology, but this is the first time that the issue has been discussed in a Western country.