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WhatsApp, Snapchat and iMessage could be banned in the UK: Should you be worried about the Communications Data Bill?

Marie Brewis | July 16, 2015
Following the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris earlier this year we were warned that if the Conservatives won the next election PM David Cameron would ban your favourite instant messaging apps, including WhatsApp, Snapchat and Apple's iMessage.

WhatsApp, Snapchat and iMessage could be banned in the UK: Should you be worried about the Communications Data Bill?

Following the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris earlier this year we were warned that if the Conservatives won the next election PM David Cameron would ban your favourite instant messaging apps, including WhatsApp, Snapchat and Apple's iMessage. Seven months and a spate of terror attacks later, without the Lib Dems to put a stop to it, we're facing the fact that the Communications Data Bill or Snooper's Charter may well become law - and soon. So, should you be worried, and what can you do to stop it? 

Cameron's problem with instant-messaging services such as WhatsApp is that all use encryption that prevents security services from keeping tabs on us and our conversations.

Back in January, Cameron said: "In our country, do we want to allow a means of communication between people which, even in extremis, with a signed warrant from the home secretary personally, that we cannot read? Now, up until now, governments of this country have said no, we must not have such a means of communication. That is why, in extremis, it has been possible to read someone's letter; that is why, in extremis, it has been possible to listen in to someone's telephone call; that is why the same applies with mobile communications.

"Let me stress again: this cannot happen unless the home secretary personally signs a warrant. We have a better system for safeguarding this very intrusive power than probably any other country I can think of."

"But the question remains: are we going to allow a means of communication where it simply isn't possible to do that? And my answer to that question is no we must not. The first duty of any government is to keep our people and our country safe."

London Mayor Boris Johnson also commented at the time: "I'm not interested in this civil liverties stuff. If they're a threat, I want their emails and calls listened to."

Now in July 2015, the potential WhatsApp ban is back in the news. Home secretary Theresa May is planning to bring a new draft of the Data Communications Bill (aka Snooper's Charter) in the autumn. With the Conservatives now having the majority, there are increasing fears that the bill will be passed and we could be looking at a WhatsApp ban as early as 2016.

WhatsApp ban: What does it mean for you?

Back in January we wrote that under Cameron's plans there are only two viable options - and neither sound good. Either these instant messaging services will be taken offline and people will be forced to use less-secure, unencrypted services, or backdoors will be opened within the apps that make it possible to decrypt messages, which may present new opportunities to hackers and allow the messages of ordinary people to be checked on by the government. In other words, in Cameron's attempts to improve national security from terrorism he will reduce personal privacy and security.

 

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