UK Considers Ban on Social Messaging Apps

In the name of fighting terrorism in the UK, messaging apps that use end-to-end encryption and do not allow the government to view the data being sent may soon be banned.

by / July 14, 2015

Great technological tools are sometimes used for evil, and that’s why the United Kingdom may soon ban instant messaging applications that aren’t open to government inspection.

Last month, 16 Belgians were arrested for sending incriminating messages via WhatsApp. ISIS, Al-Qaeda, al-Shabab and the Taliban are also known to use encrypted, throwaway messaging systems like Snapchat. UK Prime Minister David Cameron is advocating new legislation that would ban any instant messaging platform that didn’t make its data stores available to the government.

The first iteration of such a bill was announced in 2012 and proposed storing all data related to Internet browsing, social media use, email and voice correspondence for 12 months. The new legislation, Drafts Communication Data Bill — also being called “Snooper’s Charter” — is scheduled for fall 2015.

“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?” Cameron said. "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 terrorists safe spaces to communicate with each other."

Some messaging applications, like SnapChat, were invented with privacy in mind and in some cases were created specifically so government agencies like the National Security Agency would not have access to the information being sent. The proposed legislation, therefore, is at odds with the public will to some extent, as SnapChat alone accounts for 30 million monthly active users.