WhatsApp refused to create a backdoor for the UK government to access encrypted messages sent via the app, Sky News reported.
A source told the news outlet terrorists often use encrypted apps including WhatsApp and Telegram, and not being able to read these communications creates a black hole for investigators.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May called for technology companies to do more to help governments fight terrorism in a presentation at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly on Wednesday (20 September), BBC News reported.
The call came days after an explosion at Parsons Green station in London, the latest in a series of terror attacks in the UK during 2017. Encrypted apps were also linked to attacks in Manchester and London Bridge.
UK home secretary Amber Rudd said WhatsApp should open its encryption to security services to help prevent terrorist attacks following an attack on the UK’s Parliament building in March. Her comments were criticised for being dangerous and misleading.
The devices of one of the Parsons Green suspects have been recovered and are being investigated.
According to the Sky News report, WhatsApp does cooperate with law enforcement to provide some data including the name of an account, when it was created, date of last use, the IP address and associated email address.
WhatsApp states on its website it: “appreciates the work that law enforcement agencies do to keep people safe around the world. We are prepared to carefully review, validate and respond to law enforcement requests based on applicable law and policy”.
However, WhatsApp often claimed it can’t read encryped messages itself.
Raffaello Pantucci, director of international security studies at the Royal United Services Institute, told Sky News terrorist groups are using apps “to direct plots”.
“We’ve had some instances where you’ve had individuals based in Raqqa [Syria] who are steering people to launch terrorist attacks from a distance and are communicating with them blow by blow using these encrypted communications,” he said.
The report said 80 per cent of investigations into terrorism and serious crime are impacted by encryption.
Telegram also came under fire in Indonesia for hosting “terrorist-related” public channels.