Technology with attitude

No WhatsApp Ban as UK Drops Proposed Plan for Government Spies

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WhatsApp has been facing a potential ban in the UK for the past few months, but it seems this will be no more.

This follows the decision by the government to drop most of the proposed new powers for security agencies and spies, a move that means no one will access your private chat history.

This call came in as a result of the strong encryption protocols that most internet applications and companies use on their services to ensure users stay safe and secure. According to proponents of the new spies’ powers, the encryption is what protects terrorist and extremist groups as they safely exchange messages that would otherwise have prevented terror attacks if access to these apps’ chat history was granted to spies and other government agencies.

There had been previous reports suggesting that the UK would be handing new powers to spies where they would be able to access any conversation that is held by individuals on any internet platform that works in the UK. Back then, senior politicians were of the view that any internet company that declined to adhere by the new rules should be banned from serving in the country. This call put companies running on encrypted protocols such as WhatsApp, Google and Apple on a high alert as they pondered about their next move.

A sudden turn of events

The investigatory powers bill will be published this Wednesday, but it will omit some of the major parts that were considered to be intrusive. In fact, this new bill will ban the idea of having spies and police looking into any person’s conversations, a statement said. “Security services have demanded for this power, but instead, any attempted access to any internet connection will strictly be limited and targeted”, the statement continued.

What this means is that no tech company will be required to keep data of their users’ conversations. Furthermore, the initial plans to weaken the entire encryption protocols of such companies so that spies can easily access and read user messages have been dropped.

“We are aware that these investigatory powers are needed in the ever-changing technological world where criminals and terrorists pause as normal users of these services”, an unnamed Government source said in a statement to the Guardian. “However, we need to assure people that they are not only needed, but that they can only be used when necessary and in a proportionate as well as accountable manner. This is what this bill is all about”.

Despite this move, there are still some invasive powers from the Snoopers’ Charter will be retained in the new bill, for instance, the ability of a judge to sanction the reading of any messages.