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Edward Snowden: Attorney General Bill Barr doesn’t want you using encryption

Interesting piece by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in today’s Guardian, warning about the US government (with UK and Australian backup) fighting against Facebook’s plans to extend end-to-end encryption to Messenger and Instagram.

As Snowden explains, when he came forward in 2013, only “a small fraction” of the traffic on the Internet was encrypted. Today, he says, that figure has climbed to 80 percent.

And when it comes to personal communications, WhatsApp provides end-to-end encryption, so that only the sender and receiver can unlock a message, and even the service carrying it can’t violate that privacy. In March, he says, Facebook announced that it was going to extend that feature to the other applications.

But the US government doesn’t like that idea.


Donald Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, who authorised one of the earliest mass surveillance programmes without reviewing whether it was legal, is now signalling an intention to halt – or even roll back – the progress of the last six years…Now Barr is launching a public campaign to prevent Facebook from climbing this next rung on the ladder of digital security. This began with an open letter co-signed by Barr, UK home secretary Priti Patel, Australia’s minister for home affairs and the US secretary of homeland security, demanding Facebook abandon its encryption proposals.

If Barr’s campaign is successful, the communications of billions will remain frozen in a state of permanent insecurity: users will be vulnerable by design. And those communications will be vulnerable not only to investigators in the US, UK and Australia, but also to the intelligence agencies of China, Russia and Saudi Arabia – not to mention hackers around the world.

Snowden also makes the important point that when a company as sketchy as Facebook is willing to make these changes, you know that it’s probably the very least that they can do.

So what do you think? Are you using encrypted apps for your personal, private communications? And if not, why?

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