This article originally appeared on 60 Second Social.

WhatsApp, Snapchat, iMessage…all much loved communication services and now all facing the possibility of a ban in the UK. But just how ‘real’ is the threat of the services actually being banned? Well it boils down on how willing they will be to comply with the UK government over the coming months, should they go along with what Cameron wants then your beloved apps will stay. Resisting new measures could mean that they go.

WhatsApp is one of the most popular instant messaging apps in the world with more than 800 million monthly active users. Snapchat has seen a meteoric rise, especially among the teenage demographic and iMessage is Apple’s popular instant messaging service which is thriving considering the number of devices they sell.

The UK government is now looking to bring in controversial legislation that which will see these apps banned unless they agree to give British Intelligence agencies access to encrypted messages that users send. The bill would require the apps to store data of message details sent on social media, webmail, voice calls over the internet and gaming.

Police and various intelligence agencies would then be able to access this data without permission of a judge and they would be able to see the content of any messages sent between users after they obtain a warrant from the Home Secretary. David Cameron has made his intentions clear, in January he said that;

“In our country, do we want to allow a means of communication between people which even in extremes, with a signed warrant from the Home Secretary personally that we cannot read, My answer to that question is no, we must not. If I am Prime Minister, I will make sure it is a comprehensive piece of legislation that makes sure we do not allow terrorist safe spaces to communicate with each other.”

WhatsApp, Snapchat and iMessage are just some examples of apps which use end-to-end encryption and should the legislation be passed (which is likely as the Conservatives now have a majority) then it will see companies either being forced to hand over message data they have worked hard to protect or alternatively facing an outright ban in the UK.

WhatsApp, in particular, has made much of its encryption software in recent months, claiming that it is almost impossible for hackers or even the company itself to read messages sent using the app. This is because its Textsecure software jumbles messages using a cryptographic key that is stored on the device the messages are sent from.

It would be a u-turn for WhatsApp to grant access to UK law enforcement, however it would be far from shocking if that was the decision they made. WhatsApp is owned by Facebook who receive thousands of UK government requests for data each year and they comply with about 75% of them.

Given the high compliance rate of Facebook, it is likely that WhatsApp would also comply should legislation be passed. However there is bound to be lots of debate before anything concrete happens. The UK government knows that an outright ban on services like WhatsApp would be a PR disaster and who is to say that these companies won’t be able to find a loophole in the legislation and a new way to keep messages secure.

It is unlikely any of these services will be banned from the UK, however the access agencies have to your data could end up changing radically in the future.


 

About The Author

Mark is the founder of 60 Second Social media where he provides social media news and digital marketing analysis. He has an Advanced Diploma in Psychology and a Diploma in Digital Marketing And Social Media. You can follow him on Twitter here. You can also follow 60 Second Social on Twitter here. Or you can drop Mark an email at, [email protected]

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