The end-to-end encryption feature is a blessing for Facebook users (and generally for social media users) as it prevents third parties from snooping in on their conversations, and at the same time, government authorities despise it because it obstruct their surveillance.
In yet another fight over the feature, the US government is coercing Facebook to help government officials snoop the Facebook Messenger app to listen to conversations. In a nutshell, the US government is essentially asking Facebook to break Messenger’s end-to-end encryption feature.
Whats really happening?
According to Reuters, Facebook is unwilling to accept the demand and has opposed the U.S. Department of Justice’s direction to allow snooping Messenger conversations.
The government officials even filed a petition, asking the jury to hold Facebook accountable for contempt of court and not accepting their demands to spy on ongoing voice conversations. Facebook, on the other hand, is arguing that Messenger conversations are end-to-end encrypted and only the sender and recipient can view them, not even Facebook.
And Facebook is said to have mentioned that there are only two ways in which the company can comply with the US government’s demand. First, Facebook might have to rewrite the entire end-to-end encryption code, which means removing the security feature altogether, something that will almost certainly raise a storm about privacy. The second alternative is that Facebook hack the suspect’s account and allow the government officials to intercept the conversation. But I suspect that Facebook is unwilling to take either route.
While tensions are certainly rising between both parties, the outcome of this issue can have huge implications on the whole concept of privacy (in the social media world) and US government authorized surveillance. If Facebook wins, then it would be a victory for users too who are concerned about their privacy, but if the US government officials get what they need, it might also open a window of unethical surveillance operations conducted by the US government on possibly every Facebook user and social media user.