Tech And Science

WhatsApp says it will exit the UK market if forced to discontinue end-to-end encryption

Whatsapp UK
Source: Unsplash

WhatsApp, which is owned by Meta, has stated that it would exit the UK market if it is forced to reduce its end-to-end encryption for users under the impending Internet Safety Bill.

WhatsApp CEO Will Cathcart criticised the legislation as the most alarming set of online regulations in the Western world during a press conference, according to Wired.

“We’ve recently been blocked in Iran, for example. But we’ve never seen a liberal democracy do that,” Cathcart was quoted as saying in reports.

“Ninety-eight per cent of our users are outside the UK. It would be an odd choice for us to choose to lower the security of the product in a way that would affect those 98 per cent of users,” he categorically said.

Cathcart is worried that the measure will make it more difficult for WhatsApp and other messaging platforms to implement end-to-end encryption.

“It’s hard to imagine we’re having this conversation about a liberal democracy that might go around people’s ability to communicate privately,” he told reporters.

A section in the Internet Safety Bill requires tech companies to scan users’ messages for child sexual abuse material, or CSAM.

According to security experts, such a solution cannot be implemented without compromising end-to-end encryption.

Apple announced plans to check users’ messages for CSAM in 2021, but halted them after receiving criticism from security specialists.

The Internet Safety Bill also places the onus on Big Tech, with corporations that fail to comply facing fines of up to 18 million pounds, or 10% of their annual global turnover, whichever is greater.

The legislation includes stiffer and faster criminal penalties for tech executives, as well as new criminal offences for misrepresenting and destroying data.

The Internet Safety Bill will compel social media companies, search engines, and other apps and websites that allow users to publish their own material to safeguard children, combat criminal conduct, and adhere to their stated terms and conditions.

“The Bill will strengthen people’s rights to express themselves freely online and ensure social media companies are not removing legal free speech. For the first time, users will have the right to appeal if they feel their post has been taken down unfairly,” former Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries had said last year.