Attorney General William Barr will ask Facebook to delay its plans for a fully encrypted, auto-deleting messaging platform (FB)

  • Attorney General William Barr and the US Justice Department will issue an open letter asking Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to delay the company's plans for a fully encrypted messaging service, according to a draft of the letter obtained by Ryan Mac and Joseph Bernstein of BuzzFeed News.
  • In March 2019 Zuckerberg announced that Facebook was developing a new messaging platform that would feature end-to-end encryption and auto-delete messages after a certain amount of time.
  • End-to-end encryption could make it more difficult for law enforcement and tech companies to access messages during criminal investigations, but Zuckerberg says the new platform would improve privacy and security.
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Attorney General William Barr and the US Justice Department will issue an open letter asking Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to delay the company's plans for a fully encrypted messaging service, based on a draft of the letter obtained by Ryan Mac and Joseph Bernstein of BuzzFeed News.

In March Zuckerberg announced plans to build a messaging platform that would provide end-to-end encryption and allow users to communicate across Facebook Messenger, What's App, and Instagram. In a blog post Zuckerberg said the new platform would be built to provide more privacy and security for users, with features like auto-deleting messages and secure data storage.

However, the Justice Department claims that these security enhancements could make it harder for law enforcement to investigate criminal cases. End-to-end encryption could make it more difficult for authorities and tech companies to access message logs for specific users involved in an investigation. An open letter asking Facebook to delay its messaging platform is expected to be released on October 4.

"Security enhancements to the virtual world should not make us more vulnerable in the physical world," the Justice Department letter obtained by BuzzFeed reads. "Companies should not deliberately design their systems to preclude any form of access to content, even for preventing or investigating the most serious crimes."

Read more: Mark Zuckerberg says he's ready to 'go to the mat' with federal regulators over threats to break up Facebook

Zuckerberg appears to have anticipated some pushback from law enforcement, according to comments he made in a July internal meetings in July that was recently leaked. In those meeting, Zuckerberg addressed the calls for Facebook's break-up and increased tech regulation from politicians like Elizabeth Warren.

"I actually wouldn't be surprised if we end up having similar engagements like this on other socially important things that we're trying to move, like our big push to get towards more encryption across our messaging apps. That will, over time, be very sensitive when we get closer to rolling it out," Zuckerberg said, according to a transcript published by The Verge.

He continued, "Law enforcement, obviously, is not going to be psyched about that. But we think it's the right thing to protect people's privacy more, so we'll go defend that when the time is right. But I think that there will be more things like this, and this is a lot of what being public — trying to make our case publicly and engaging in a more consultative approach — what that looks like."

Facebook and the Justice Department did not immediately return Business Insider's requests for comment. 

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