Eight hundred million people around the world use WhatsApp to communicate, we learned this week from its owners, Facebook.
Yet this is the messaging service which could soon be banned by the British government because its use of encryption makes it too private for the security services to access. That at least was the story repeated in several newspapers in recent weeks, and frequently denied by Downing Street.
But this morning even the Financial Times seemed to back it up. In an article about the battle between governments and corporations over access to encrypted messages it says this: “David Cameron, UK prime minister, has proposed a complete ban on strong encryption ‘to ensure that terrorists do not have a safe space in which to communicate’.”
WhatsApp is just one of the services that uses strong encryption for their messages, along with Apple’s iMessage and Skype’s internet calls. Both the US and UK governments have expressed growing concerns that criminals and terrorists are making use of such services to communicate, knowing that they are completely private.
So does the prime minister really want to ban them?